At the time of writing, Australia have four confirmed opponents in their group for the Super 12 of the 2021 ICC World T20: South Africa, England, West Indies and Bangladesh.
As the qualifiers continue, Sri Lanka are most likely to enter Australia’s group for the Super 12. With that in mind, here are two players from each team that Australia must nullify during their next five games.
South Africa: Rassie van der Dussen and Tabraiz Shamsi
Ever since he made his debut for South Africa in October 2018, Rassie van der Dussen has impressed in the Proteas jersey, especially in white-ball cricket.
Averaging 36 at a strike rate over 133 in T20 internationals, van der Dussen is the key man for the Proteas with the bat. While he does not score as quickly against spinners, he is not easy to dismiss and the Aussie bowlers have to bring their A game against van der Dussen.
While South Africa have two world-class quicks in Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje, it is left-arm wrist spinner Tabraiz Shamsi who has been running circles around opposition batters this year.
Considering how susceptible Australia are against quality spin on dry wickets, Shamsi will be a potent threat as he can turn the ball both ways. There are rumours that Shamsi may miss the opening clash to injury. Should that happen, then finger spinner Keshav Maharaj will be the key bowler Australia have to nullify.
Sri Lanka: Wanindu Hasaranga and Maheesh Theekshana
Assuming Sri Lanka will end up winners of Group B, I have gone ahead with choosing their two danger men. Hasaranga has developed into a dangerous white-ball cricketer and this has come at the perfect time for a struggling Sri Lankan outfit.
An aggressive middle-order batter, Hasaranga will come to counter attack with the bat regardless of the match situation, as shown in Sri Lanka’s win versus Ireland.
With the ball, the leg spinner can spin it both ways and taking 39 wickets at an average under 16 and an economy under 6.5 shows how deadly Hasaranga is both as a batter and as a bowler in this format.
Maheesh Theekshana is not well known in international circles, but many will rave on by the conclusion of this World T20. A mystery spinner with a carrom ball that is hard to pick, Sri Lanka have picked Theekshana at the right time as not much will be known about him by opposition sides.
Australia have struggled against a Sri Lankan mystery spinner by the name of Ajantha Mendis in the past. With Hasaranga already set to bowl four overs, Australia will find it challenging to combat Theekshana and Hasaranga’s turners.
England: Jos Buttler and Adil Rashid
With Eoin Morgan not ruling out the possibility of dropping himself, there is a fair chance of Jos Buttler captaining the English side during this World T20. A 360-degree player, Buttler will open the batting and attempt to get England off to fast starts and take advantage of the field restrictions in the first six overs.
Equally adept against pace and spin, Aaron Finch’s best bet to dismiss Buttler early is for Mitchell Starc to go all guns blazing with the new ball. It would be a risky but required move if Australia want to restrict England to a low score.
In seven matches against Australia, Rashid has picked ten wickets at an average of 19.8 and an economy of 7.33. In favourable conditions, the England leg spinner will be looking to bowl plenty of googlies and sliders to the Australian batters.
In conditions favouring the spinners, Australia have to find a way not to allow Rashid to settle in or else an England victory is on the cards.
West Indies: Kieron Pollard and Hayden Walsh Jr
Kieron Pollard will be desperate to make a mark as a West Indian T20 player after years of dominating franchise cricket. A calm leader who has improved his batting against spin, Pollard will be aiming to stamp his authority in the West Indies middle order.
Alongside his powerful batting, Pollard bowls handy medium pacers and is arguably the greatest outfielder in T20 cricket.
Hayden Walsh Jr will be a name that is well remembered among the Aussie T20 squad members who toured the West Indies. Not afraid to toss the ball up, Walsh Jr will look to entice the Aussie batters with flight and variations on what is expected to be a slow Abu Dhabi wicket.
Bangladesh: Shakib Al Hasan and Mahedi Hasan
In the qualifiers, Al Hasan found some mojo with the bat, which is a positive sign for Bangladesh. Batting at first drop, Shakib will look to dictate the tempo of Bangladesh’s innings and ensure the Bangladeshis post 140-plus for their bowlers to defend.
Oh, and he is the leading wicket taker in World T20 tournaments and T20 internationals. If Shakib fires with bat and ball, then there is a very good chance of Bangladesh beating Australia for the fifth time this year.
Mahedi Hasan has been the pick of the Bangladesh bowlers so far in this World T20. An off spinner who is equally adept against right- and left-handed batters, Hasan’s spells with the ball have gone unnoticed at times due to the presence of Shakib.
With the Australia-Bangladesh encounter being a day game at Dubai, Mahedi will enjoy the dry conditions to take some top-order wickets, particularly David Warner.