Unlike Dr Evil and Homer Simpson before them, Australia’s quest for world domination in cricket is falling into place.
If they can take out the T20 World Cup when it’s hosted in the Caribbean and the US next year, they will have the full set of global trophies in their bulging cabinet.
That’s all three men’s trophies plus both women’s World Cups – and if the ICC had decided to get serious about Tests for female teams, let’s face it, Australia would more than likely have that in their keeping as well.
Cricket Australia’s bigwigs, in their various strategic plans and in-depth reports when fortunes go awry, repeatedly state their goal is to be the best nation on the planet in all formats.
India hold the top ranking in all three formats (for now), the balance of power in the boardroom and the global pursestrings but they can’t purchase a World Cup (well, not yet anyway) no matter how much they doctor pitches or play silly buggers with scheduling and ticketing to their advantage.
After Australia’s women racked up their third straight T20 World Cup win earlier this year in South Africa to go with last year’s ODI tournament triumph in New Zealand, the men have now caught up with Sunday night’s 50-over victory over India in Ahmedabad now accompanying the World Test Championship silverware they collected when beating the same opponents in June at The Oval.
The next women’s tournament is not due until Bangladesh hosts the T20 World Cup next September, a few months after the men’s event in North America.
Australia’s selectors have been steadfastly delaying an inevitable refresh of their ageing squads in all three formats and if they had fallen short in India, it would have given them the licence to tap a few veteran stars on the shoulder.
But after winning the ODI crown with an XI which had 28-year-old Josh Inglis as its youngest player and one of only three players yet to turn 30, the panel of chief selector George Bailey, coach Andrew McDonald and Tony Dodemaide will be inclined to give this group another chance to enhance their growing legacy at the T20 slugfest.
The shortest format has been Australia’s weakest in the men’s arena. Apart from the unexpected 2021 World Cup victory during the pandemic in the UAE, they have been consistent under-achievers.
Currently ranked fourth, they have played far fewer T20 matches in recent years than the other 11 full member ICC nations apart from Afghanistan, who are hampered by an inability to play matches at home as well as a reluctance from other countries to host them, or an outright boycott in Australia’s case.
Several members of the Australian ODI side will be forced to dust off hangovers to line up for the cash grab that is a five-match series in India which gets underway on Friday at Visakhapatnam.
Victorious captain Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Marsh and Cameron Green have been excused from this series.
Travis Head, David Warner and Steve Smith are sticking around at least for the first couple of matches before likely returning home to prepare for the start of three-Test series against Pakistan in Perth on December 14.
Glenn Maxwell, Inglis and fellow ODI squad members Marcus Stoinis, Tanveer Sangha and Sean Abbott will be joined by Nathan Ellis, Matt Short and Matthew Wade in what will be the first of several auditions for next year’s T20 campaign to complete the trophy collection.
The decision to appoint Matthew Wade as captain is still yet to be properly explained by the selectors – Marsh made a decent fist of his taste of the white-ball leadership in the World Cup warm-up tour to South Africa and is surely ahead of Wade in the race to lead the T20 team next year.
Head should be given the nod (pun intended) ahead of both of them – he’s had vast experience at state level and looms as the logical replacement to Cummins for the Test and ODI gigs when the NSW seamer retires or relinquishes the reins.
Not that his position as a three-format player needed any further underlining but his match-winning century in the World Cup final on Sunday showed that he is not scared of the biggest moments.
He has the respect of his teammates, tactical nous and as the only all-format Australian player under 30, he’s got the right mix of experience without being anywhere near the twilight of his career.
His opening partner is planning on finally retiring from international cricket at the T20 World Cup and based on his white-ball form in both limited-overs versions, you can make a case for keeping him in the side despite being the wrong side of 37.
It’s his planned Test swansong of a farewell trio of matches against Pakistan which is problematic for the Australian set-up. His Test form has been sub-par for a long time now and despite another modest Ashes tour, it looks like he will keep Cameron Bancroft’s mounting claims for a recall at bay until the West Indies return for a second summer of woe in January.
With a two-Test tour to New Zealand the only other slightly meaningful cricket on the horizon, the T20 World Cup suddenly has much more significance for Australia.
The race for selection in the squad will, possibly for the first time, become an ongoing storyline and could even raise interest in the BBL among many of the Test diehard supporters.