This week Cricket Australia has released their squad for the upcoming T20 World Cup.
The Australian T20 side has had a torrid time of it recently with a disastrous winter tour to the West Indies and Bangladesh but the announcement of this squad will fill the team with optimism as some much needed reinforcements are returning to action.
The selected squad contains:
Aaron Finch (captain)
Pat Cummins (vice-captain)
Travelling reserves: Dan Christan, Nathan Ellis, Daniel Sams.
Overall the squad appears more balanced, obviously more experience and has a lot more weapons in its arsenal than the winter tours.
New chief of selectors George Bailey has already shown to be valuable addition to the panel. Obviously, it is a lot easier to pick a side when everyone is available but this side makes so much more sense.
The winter tour squad was laden with multiple wicketkeepers, all-rounders and not enough specialist batsmen. This squad seems to have taken roles in the side in account whereas the winter tours seemed resigned to picking the favourites of what was left over regardless of how they meshed as a unit.
The sight of watching Moises Henriques stride out to open the batting considering the glut of openers at Australia’s disposal was not a happy one.
This side appears to tick all the right boxes. There are three spin options before we look at part timers. There are four quicks before getting to any off the all-rounders.
Our likely top three are all specialist batsmen and players like Marsh, Hazlewood, Swepson and Ellis have been rewarded for strong winter tours.
The most notable inclusion to the squad would be the uncapped Josh Inglis. The 26-year-old wicketkeeper has leapt the cue ahead of Alex Carey, Josh Philippe and Ben McDermott.
Given Carey’s previous leadership positions in the side his omission was considerably surprising but it appears the three of them have paid for really poor tours of the West Indies and Bangladesh.
George Bailey said that Inglis had been a player of interest for quite some time. They were particularly impressed with his stint in the T20 Blast and the Hundred.
They were also very impressed with how seamlessly he slotted into the middle order for the Scorchers in the most recent BBL, which indicates what sort of role they have envisioned for him in the upcoming World Cup.
This ability to perform in the middle order is likely what swayed things in his favour. The other wicketkeeper-batsmen that have been used in the T20 set-up – Philippe, McDermott, Carey and Wade – have all done what’s been asked of them to get selected.
They have been consistent contributors at the domestic level during the BBL, however they all did so batting at the top of the order. With those positions likely to be filled by Finch, Warner, Smith and the resurgent Mitchell Marsh, they aren’t in the element that has allowed them to succeed.
Inglis, however, has runs under his belt in the middle order, which hopefully will lead to an easier transition to the international game.
While it unusual for a player to make an international debut during a World Cup, hopefully he will channel players like Andy Flower, who scored a 100 during his debut during an ODI World Cup.
The next big inclusion would be that of Steve Smith. By far Australia’s best batsman, earlier it appeared his World Cup aspirations would be dashed by an elbow injury.
However he has recovered in time for a stint in the second leg of the IPL and it should give Smith plenty of opportunity to get his feet underneath him heading into the World Cup.
Smith has come under scrutiny for not having a game that suits the T20 format but his average of 39.54 at number three in international T20 cricket is bested only by Virat Kohli, Babar Azam and Dawid Malan through a minimum of 15 innings.
His strike rate at three is near enough to 140 and his proficiency against spin bowling will be invaluable after seeing Australia’s struggles during the winter. His success at the World Cup is crucial for Australia to have any chance at hoisting the trophy.
The only real question mark is around Aaron Finch, not only with his form but also his injury. Finch has had a torrid time in the short form over the last 18 months. He has been dropped from the IPL, had several ordinary BBL campaigns and has struggled for consistency at the international level.
The captaincy likely is sparing him the axe. The likelihood of an Australian captain being dropped this close to a major tournament is astronomically unlikely but serious questions will have to be asked if Finch doesn’t fire during the tournament.
That is, of course, if he can recover in time from his knee surgery. The timeline is already tight and any complications in his recovery would be problematic for the Aussie skipper.
Should the worst happen and Finch not be fit for the World Cup, hopefully Bailey and the rest of the brains trust use the same thinking that brought Inglis into the side and look to the UK.
Since becoming the first concussion substitute in a Test match during the 2019 Ashes series, Marnus Labuschagne has taken cricket by storm with his appetite for runs no matter the format.
His form in long-form cricket speaks for itself but his short-form cricket has been impressive as well, recently getting starts in the Australian ODI sides and having a successful stint for the Brisbane Heat in the BBL.
Post the BBL, Labuschagne was left out of the winter tours and selectors indicated a stint with Glamorgan in England’s T20 Blast would be good for his development.
True to form, Labuschagne came away from the T20 Blast with 390 runs at an average of 55.71 and a strike rate of 140, coupled with this his leg breaks, which netted him nine wickets. As we have seen, spin-bowling options are going to be valuable in the UAE.
He has batted primarily at three during his T20 games, however he could provide the perfect foil for Warner at the top of the order. That continues the left/right-handed partnership. He is fantastic at rotating the strike and has developed his hitting to allow him to access all sections of the ground.
Given the fallout from the tours to Bangladesh and West Indies, the selectors have done well to put forward a squad that has the potential like this one to make some noise in the World Cup. I’m sure for people like Justin Langer, it must have seemed like the world was falling down around them in the immediate aftermath of those tours.
Most of these players will get a tune-up at the IPL, which is also being held in the UAE. The frustrating part of all that is that most of these players were available during the winter tours and chose to sit out only for those tours not to clash with the IPL.
Obviously bubble fatigue and burning players out is a serious consideration. It’s just a shame that Langer couldn’t work out any kinks in the squad ahead of time and the first we’ll be seeing this team in action will be the World Cup.
Out of this squad my predicted starting XI is:
Aaaron Finch (captain)