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The 'massive advantage' driving Australia's T20 WC pursuit - and why they should really be the odds-on favourites

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10th June, 2024
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The World Cup of the slam and bang, the shortest format of the game is here upon us. Partly a World Cup affair and partly a promotion affair, this World Cup is unique as it extends to the newer boundaries of the USA in addition to the traditional Test-playing Caribbean country.

With the Super Eight stage seedings and groups already decided, it is now up to the big teams to hammer the minnows and get into their predetermined slot in the Super 8 groupings. However, at this early stage, some big teams seem to be wobbling: New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Pakistan are no guarantees to get to the next stage.

Australia, having started well, are playing for the only world championship trophy missing from their cabinet currently in the men’s, women’s and Under-19s combined. While it would be a fairy tale to have all World Cup trophies in your possession at the same time, fairy tales do happen in international sport. So what are Australia’s chances of winning this T20 World Cup?

Australia by common opinion started as one of the favourite teams alongside powerhouses India and England. But this is a tag that they carry in almost all of the ICC tournaments that they play. Moreover, the T20 format is such that a favourites tag carries highly discounted value as compared to the other formats. Australia have selected quite a settled combination for this WC with good coverage in almost all areas. The team is very similar to the one that took it out in 2021 barring a few changes.

So does this team have what it will take to win the T20 World Cup? Most of the teams have some specialised T20 players among their ranks which should make them favourites to win the championship of this format. T20 cricket, and the number of T20 leagues that have been played, have given rise to a T20 speciality player. We can see the abundance of this type of player in almost all of the full ICC member teams.

However, I would like to draw attention to one very important factor, which has almost always reigned supreme in determining the champion of a global ICC tournament: handling yourself when you’re up against the wall. I think among all the full-member ICC nations, Australia is the best team at handling big tournament pressure.

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Take the World Cup of 1999, where they lost the first couple of matches only to come roaring back and defeat South Africa in two high-pressure games to ultimately lift the trophy. Another huge example of tackling situations is the Andrew Symonds innings against Pakistan when they were five down for not many in the 2003 World Cup opener.

Even in the recent past, the World Cup in India last year, they not only lost their first couple of matches but were soundly hammered by India and South Africa in those matches. We all know what happened after that – they went on a ten-match winning streak to beat the host in their home ground in the final.

Travis Head hits a six in Australia's T20 World Cup victory over England.

Travis Head hits a six in Australia’s T20 World Cup victory over England. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

In the 2021 T20 World Cup, which they also won, there were situations when the late middle order pulled the match out of the fire many times. Time and time again, Australia seem to be the best at punching back when cornered.

Now what counters this ability of Australia is the format of this ongoing World Cup. Even if you are very good at handling pressure, the T20 format is such that two or three overs of opposition brilliance can leave you with no chance of winning the game. Surely that can happen anytime, like into 2022 – a brisk start by New Zealand in Australia’s first match put them effectively out of the whole tournament.

Grit aside, team selection is crucial to winning the tournament. There have been players from multiple countries who have performed well in the IPL and other T20 leagues. But is overall performance all that matters? Does any team actually pick one or two players who are capable of a counter punch when put in a disastrous, mid-match situation – I doubt it.

In Australia’s case, the one thing that their selectors always do is back the incumbents even if some of them are not performing well, and those banging on the door are – cough, cough, Jake Fraser-McGurk. Such a philosophy has seen the core of the Aussie side from 2021 through to 2024 remain intact.

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Jake Fraser-McGurk of Australia bats during game three of the Men's One Day International match between Australia and West Indies at Manuka Oval on February 06, 2024 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Jake Fraser-McGurk in ODI against West Indies. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Presumably, when you play together for such a long time – note, this is not the case for many other teams – then you know how your teammates react to a particular situation or conditions. As a group, you know each other’s abilities and are much better equipped to handle and come out of tough situations in tournaments.

This is where Australia have a massive advantage. Sure, they might be knocked out by individual brilliance in knockout play. But there’s an equal chance of them coming out victorious in the knockouts even if put under severe pressure.

Australia’s road to the Super Eight stage seems all but confirmed right now. India, Australia and the West Indies might be in the same Super Eight group. Will Australia be one of the top two teams when it’s all said and done ? I am banking on them to be.

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If they manage to make the semis, then the equation changes drastically and suddenly they would become the team to beat. In the end, I would say that Australia have the skills, the ability to play tournament situations, the personnel and the game to win this World Cup. But, as the other teams are undoubtedly hoping, the fickle nature of the T20 format might render all of that moot.

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