T20 World Cup: Hosts Australia Bank Hopes on the Tried & Tested to Defend Title
The reigning world champions decided to stick with the old guard and have made just one key change in their squad.
The Quint DAILY
For impactful stories you just can’t miss
Reigning world T20 champions Australia recently suffered a 2-1 defeat to hosts India ahead of their T20 World Cup campaign on home soil next month.
As the scoreline suggests, it was a tightly fought contest between the Kangaroos and the World No 1 T20 side, while the visitors did have the disadvantage of playing without some of their big players like David Warner, Mitchell Marsh, Marcus Stoinis, and Mitchell Starc.
Though the series loss exposed a few chinks in the side’s armour, it is far from a matter of concern for the Aussies who still have five T20Is lined up before the commencement of ICC's multi-nation tournament on 16 October.
The Aussies will travel to West Indies for a two-match series early next month followed by another three against England at home.
The series against the Windies and England respectively will provide the Australians ample time to sort out their team combinations as they gear up to defend their title.
Australia had earlier this month announced a 15-member squad to represent the nation in the mega-event slated to begin on 16 October.
The 15-member squad featured only one notable change from the squad that emerged champions last year in the UAE. Spinner Mitch Swepson, who was a part of the squad last year, made way for Singaporean-born Australian, Tim David.
By backing the oldguard, the Australian selectors have placed their trust upon a group that had brought them glory just a year ago. With the World Cup soon on the cards, let’s look at an in-depth analysis of the Australian side.
Experienced Openers but Finch in Poor Form
In David Warner and Aaron Finch, Australia has one of the most experienced and explosive opening duos in the cricket world.
The pair share 186 caps and 5,599 international runs between them in the shortest format – a testament to Australia’s decision to stick with the two openers for such a long duration.
However, Warner and Finch, have both touched their 35s and are in the fag end of their career, with the latter ready to hang up his boots post the World Cup.
One of the paramount worries for Australia leading into the World Cup will be the form of captain Finch, who has registered scores of 7, 31, 22, 29, and 24 in his last five outings.
Warner, on the other hand, has featured just three times in the T20Is after being rested for the India series and struggling with injuries for the most part of the year.
Despite featuring in a few games, Warner has an impressive average of 65 and a strike rate of 149.42 this year, brushing away concerns about his form.
He was, in fact, one of the key players for Australia in the World Cup last year where he finished as the second highest run-getter with 289 runs from seven matches, including three fifties.
If Warner and Finch manage to find their groove, the left-hand right-hand duo would be a formidable threat for any bowling line-up.
If all does not go according to plan, Australia has the option of slotting in young Cameron Green, who was a revelation of sorts as an opener in the series against India.
The 23-year-old executed his role to perfection, clubbing the Indian bowlers all over the park, and emerged as the top scorer with 118 runs. A handy all-rounder, who can bowl medium pace, Green, however, has not been included in the 15-member squad.
With all the teams having time till 9 October to make changes to their squads, Australia still has an alternative in Green if the Warner-Finch duo fail to fire on all cylinders in the upcoming T20Is.
Unlike a few teams, Australia has not experimented much with their batting line-up and have stuck with the old guard of Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Steve Smith, Josh Inglis, Marcus Stoinis, and Mathew Wade in the middle-order.
Barring Smith, the other five have excelled in their respective roles ever since their World Cup triumph last year, especially Inglis, who has been the side’s second highest run-scorer this year in the T20Is with 220 runs from nine matches.
Australia’s decision to promote Marsh into the No 3 role in the World Cup proved to be a masterstroke after he lit up the final by smashing a 50-ball unbeaten 77 to dethrone New Zealand by eight wickets.
Though Marsh has been plagued by injuries this year, the medium pacer’s all-round abilities assure him of a certain place within the playing XI.
Meanwhile, both Maxwell and Wade are senior campaigners within the T20 setup and have been crucial for their side’s success in the last couple of years.
The former with his right arm off spin offers captain Finch more bowling options, while wicketkeeper Wade has grown in confidence and has been excellent in his role as the finisher lately.
The veteran keeper was Australia’s second-highest run-scorer against India and his unbeaten 45 in Mohali helped them record their only win of the series.
Stoinis, much like Marsh and Maxwell, can chip in with the ball but it is his power-hitting skills that set him apart from the rest. With a strike rate of 162.50 in 2022, Stoinis has evolved into one of the most dangerous finishers and is a sure threat to any opposition during the death overs.
Bearing in mind the conditions Down Under, Australia decided to include middle order batter Tim David in place of spinner Swepson.
The big hard-hitter is a natural fit for the hard bouncy pitches in Australia, where a bowler like Swepson would not have much of a role to play. David officially made the switch a week ago to Australia, having represented the country of his birth – Singapore in the past.
Australia’s decision to include him in the World Cup squad seemed to have paid dividends already as he hit a 50 in just his third appearance for them in the final T20I against India in Hyderabad.
A proven performer in the T20 format, David has a career strike rate of 163.30 playing for various franchises across the world and could be Australia’s X-factor player this World Cup.
However, with an already established middle-order in their ranks, it remains to be seen how the team management will slot in the 26-year-old.
Zampa, Agar Only Recognised Spinners
Though Australia has Maxwell, Smith, and David who can all roll their arms they are still part-time spinners, leaving them with Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar – the only two recognised spinners in the squad.
Right-arm leg-spinner Zampa and left-arm orthodox spinner Agar have been a part of the side’s T20 setup for quite a while now and it was not a surprise to see them feature in the final 15.
With eight caps and nine wickets to his name, Zampa has been the more successful of the two this year. Agar, on the other hand, has four wickets from six games.
However, Agar, who has a strike rate of 91.48 compared to Zampa’s 33.33, can be a viable lower-order batting option for Finch in the not so spin-friendly pitches at home.
Whether the dearth of another out-and-out spinner would affect the team’s displays, remains a debate for tomorrow.
However, that could be the case only if Zampa and Agar, or either of the two, get injured or underperform in the tournament.
Acing With Pace
The trio of Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, and Mitchell Starc will lead Australia’s pace attack in the tournament as they have done so on numerous occasions. The three are first-choice options within the side, be it in Tests, ODIs, or T20Is.
The Kangaroos possess one of the best bowlers in the world in ICC No 1, ranked T20 seamer Hazlewood. Vice-captain Cummins has not enjoyed the success of his compatriot in the T20Is, but remains a potent threat given his dominance in the other formats. He is also held in high regard by his teammates.
32-year-old Starc, meanwhile, is the most accomplished of the three with a bagful of experience under his belt as his 63 wickets from 51 T20Is suggest. A skillful bowler, Star’s pace and his searing yorkers make him an inevitable member of the team.
The front-three will be backed by a fourth pacer in Kane Richardson.
With 13 wickets from seven matches, the 31-year-old has been Australia’s second highest wicket-taker in 2022, meaning he is a worthy replacement for the three of them if required.
Having tried, tested, and tasted victory in the past, Australia has taken the safer approach of sticking with a squad that won them their maiden T20 title in 2021.
The narrow series loss to India, despite the absence of a few big names, suggests that Australia is still a formidable unit which make it a worthy title contender.
The Kangaroos would be hopeful that the home advantage works in their favour when they enter the field to defend their title unless it gets on their nerves and backfires.
(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)
Read and Breaking News at the Quint, browse for more from sports and cricket
Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.