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DAMIEN FLEMING: How Dave Warner can get his mojo back, and the historic flaw we must fix

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Expert
21st October, 2021
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Can Australia win the T20 World Cup? The conditions, and selections, will play a big part.

They’ve been playing IPL on those wickets, so some might be worn by the end of the tournament, and some might be fresh early.

Getting the team balance exactly right for the conditions will be key and it’s something we didn’t get right in those series in the West Indies and Bangladesh.

If you pick the wrong team – one extra fast bowler and not a spinner or vice versa – that can be the match in T20 cricket.

Overall, let’s be honest, we’ve been a poor T20 team internationally. We’ve won less than half of our games in the last four years.

I think a lot of that is just the number of games our regular players have played – they’re not playing a lot of Big Bash so most of them are getting their T20 cricket from 50 over cricket. That has hurt us.

And looking over those last four years, we’ve not been really creative in our selection, we’re too conservative.

There are several areas of concerns as we head into the first match against South Africa and it starts at the top of the order.

If Aaron Finch and David Warner don’t have good tournaments we’re cooked. Warner has two games to get it right, and if he continues to fail then I’d bring Matthew Wade up and add Josh Inglis into the middle order.

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Wade is a lot better opener than he is number six or seven and he’s used to opening in T20 cricket.

Inglis plays spin well, hits 360 degrees. I would actually play him ahead of Wade if Wade’s not opening.

Warner is a class player but it won’t be easy for him to reverse his current form.

In an ideal world he would have kept his spot in the IPL but the Sunrisers were a strong team and he lost it and couldn’t find a way back.

And in the two warm up matches, against New Zealand and India, where he scored ducks, I think he didn’t lean into his strengths.

Against India he played a reverse sweep against Ashwin. That’s not the sort of shot you expect from him early in his innings.

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Usually Warner plays the traditional strong shots but with real power. Maybe he’s feeling the pressure a bit.

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T20 is just brutal. If a player starts a competition out of form I always wonder how can they get back into form, because the clock’s ticking fast.

T20 gets a bit of a bad wrap as a bit of hit and a giggle. Instead, I see it as a brutal tactical and mental game. You’re defending 20 off the last over but the first two balls go for six… But it’s really about the next ball.

My advice for Dave Warner is to slow things down and reflect on what your strengths are. When you’re under the pump you’re looking for that quick fix, and in any form of cricket sometimes one ball can be enough.

Confidence can fluctuate ball by ball even in the great players, so he might be just one shot away.
It might be just a bunt through the covers for one that he feels like his feet are in the right place, he provides a full face and thinks ‘I’m back’.

I’d be encouraging him to reflect on the state of mind when he performs best, the shots he plays best.

Reverse sweeping early? That’s not really his game. He’s more stand and deliver and then he gets a bit funky later on.

He might need to be stable and back his own shots and power.

When you’re opening there are only two men out. If you look to play confident, traditional cricket shots you’re going to be unlucky to find fieldsmen. I think he’s trying to innovate too much.

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You want to maximize those first six overs, but there’s nothing wrong with going a run a ball for the first couple and getting yourself in and accelerating in the fourth, fifth or sixth over. The stats show if you lose three wickets in the power play you just don’t win the game.

The middle order is also an area where we have issues, especially around No.6, which is a position where we’ve been poor for years. We’ve tried Mitchell Marsh, Stoinis, McDermott, Turner – without committing to someone.

One of our main problems in selection is we pick batsmen that have been dominating in the top order in the BBL and they come into the national team and get pushed to the middle order.

Contrast that with the West Indies who have players like Andre Russell and Kieron Pollard anywhere from five to seven and they can hit the first ball for six.

The challenge for Australia is to get that area sorted. We’ll always have enough top order batsmen to be a good team but do we have enough finishers at five, six, seven? Who are the players who can come in and get 20 off 10 balls?

Glenn Maxwell is the outlier.

He is so much better than anyone else we have. He can score 100 off 40 balls, can play the finishing role and, importantly, he plays spin really well.

While Finch and Warner are crucial, I can’t see us winning unless Maxwell is close to the player of the tournament.

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Against India in the warmup, Steve Smith was at his limit. He scored 57 off 48 and did his job at four after we lost early wickets, and was smart enough to bat through. But a strike rate of 118 isn’t going to win us the big games.

Glenn Maxwell of Australia hits out

Glenn Maxwell. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images for ECB)

If the pitch looks like taking spin, I think the selectors will stay conservative and this is how they’ll put the team out: Finch, Warner, Marsh, Smith, Maxwell, Stoinis, Wade, Agar, Starc, Cummins, Zampa. If there is grass on the pitch I’d have Hazlewood for Agar.

Cummins is a super star but Josh Hazlewood has played the whole IPL and Cummins has come in and got none for 30 odd. They’ll go with Cummins but if you were picking on form, Hazlewood probably should play.

Who will win it?

India are the out and out tournament favourites, coming out of the IPL with a star-laden team. All of them are fit, in form, they bat deep, and their bowling has real variety.

I don’t see a weakness and it’s their tournament to lose. Sometimes teams can struggle with being a favourite and in a final it can be a lottery.

If England had Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes I’d almost be picking them to win. They’ll certainly make the semis and no doubt could win it.

They took a T20 cricket mentality to their 50 over cricket and won the World Cup in 2019.

They’re a team that can score over 200 consistently which just might overpower other teams. It’s a team built to score massively. And their bowling is not unreal, but it can defend those big totals. They’ve got genuine power. Batting wise, they can just blow every other team off the park.

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Who else will be strong? I’ll go the West Indies just because they’re fun. You think it’s a young man’s game but we see, even in the Big Bash, it’s the older, experienced players that tend to dominate.

They’ve got real experience in that in that squad with Pollard, Russell, Gayle and Bravo.

They’re the opposite of the Australians with their deep T20 experience. There is no scenario that will come up in this World Cup they haven’t been in.

Well played, Patto

From his first Test match, it looked like James Pattinson was destined for 200 Tests. They loved him because he was the enforcer. He didn’t need to be a massive sledger but he was just in the opposition’s faces.

He had strong body language – probably stronger than anybody else in this team.

To have four stress fractures and that surgery, he’s like Ryan Harris and Bruce Reid, those guys whose bodies were just not equipped for the demands.

It shows what a massive workload fast bowling is – ten times your body weight going through your back foot every time you land. If there are any instabilities there you’re in trouble.

I would have loved to see him get an extended run and see how well he could have batted. I think he could have averaged 25 plus in Test match cricket and given us a chance to play two spinners more.

But did he leave anything in the sheds? No. No one worked harder and 81 wickets at 26, they’re star figures.

The great thing is he can retire from international cricket and still play three or four years in T20 and Shield cricket, where he will be an excellent mentor to Victorian’s young fast bowling group.

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