Cricket Australia was one of the earliest boards to announce their squad for the 2021 ICC T20 Cricket World Cup. Australia, who are currently ranked seventh in the ICC T20I rankings, might not incite a lot of confidence based on their recent form but when it comes to World Cups, teams can count out Australia at their peril.
Except for Oman, Papua New Guinea and Scotland, all the other 13 teams who are participating in this year’s T20 World Cup have played at least three T20Is this year. Australia have the worst Win/Loss ratio of 0.363 of all the 13 teams. They managed to win just four of their 15 matches, losing 11. This also includes losing to Bangladesh for the first time in their T20I history.
Australia and their supporters can argue that pitches in Bangladesh were terrible for batting and with Bangladesh having superior spinners, run-making was as hard as it can get. But before Bangladesh humiliated Australia, it was the West Indies who outplayed them by winning the series 4-1.
Australia’s key man
The biggest positive, perhaps the only one, for Australia in the series against the West Indies and Bangladesh was the form of Mitchel Marsh, who was not only the leading run-scorer in both the series, he was also the leading wicket-taker for Australia against the West Indies.
Marsh scored 375 runs in the last two series he played and batted at number three in the absence of Steve Smith. With eight wickets across both series, Marsh gives Australia a fantastic option of a top-order atter who can bowl key overs with an ability to take wickets.
Australia’s Squad for T20 World Cup 2021:
Batters: Aaron Finch (C), Steve Smith and David Warner
Bowlers: Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Kane Richardson, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, Adam Zampa, Nathan Ellis* and Daniel Sams*
All-rounders: Ashton Agar, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Dan Christian*
WK: Josh Inglis, Matthew Wade
* Traveling reserves
Despite the World Cup taking place in UAE, where conditions aren’t as conducive for pace as they are for spinners, Australia have backed their pacers to come good by picking six pace bowling options with three more in the traveling reserves. Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins pick themselves in the playing XI, with Josh Hazlewood as a potent back-up for the two quicks.
Australia are also banking on the versatility of their players, evident from the fact that they have picked just three specialist batters (excluding two WK batters) and five all-round options, including Dan Christian, who will be traveling as a reserve. This gives captain Aaron Finch a lot of variety and options when it comes to chopping and changing the batters and bowlers for match-ups.
Despite a majority of the players missing out on game time during the West Indies and Bangladesh series, Australia will hope IPL serves as a platform for their players to regain match fitness and for their key players to hit some crucial form before they unite for the World Cup. Having both the tournaments at the same venue will also aid their preparations.
The key batters for Australia will be captain Aaron Finch, who will pair up with his long-term opening partner David Warner. Warner is not just Australia’s most experienced player but also their leading run-scorer at the T20 World Cup amongst active players. The real headache for Finch and his Australian side will be deciding the batting position of the middle-order batters.
All potential middle-order batters in the Australian squad bat in the top-order in franchise-level cricket around the world. So, when it comes to playing for Australia, most batters bat out of their usual, more successful position and find it difficult to immediately adapt to the demands of playing at a particular position with a specific role.
With Marsh in red hot form, it would be interesting to see if Australia continue with him at number three, which would mean dropping Steve Smith down at four, who averages just 20.50 at a modest strike rate of 103.79 at that position. Batting at number three, Smith averages 39.53 at a healthy strike rate of 141.59.
Australia will expect a big show from the Big Show
The most important player for Australia could be Glenn Maxwell, who is one of the most versatile batters in the line-up and someone who can bat at any position and still inflict a similar level of damage to the opposition. One of the rare batters who is capable of hitting long from ball one, Australia might look at Maxwell as a floater, depending on the match situation. An able off-spinner, Maxwell has picked up five wickets in his last seven games for Australia at an economy rate of just 7.64 RPO and can prove really handy in the conditions that UAE and Oman will have on offer.
With Starc spearheading the pace department, Finch will rely on the spin duo of Ashton Agar and Adam Zampa to not only contain the opposition in the middle overs but do it by regularly picking up wickets. In 2021, Agar and Zampa have collectively taken 25 wickets at an average of 27 runs per wicket while conceding just 7.22 runs per over. Combine the duo with Maxwell’s off-spin and the three spinners are capable of containing and troubling the opposition batters in conditions that will suit their craft.
For the wicketkeeper’s spot, Australia might look at handing over a debut cap to the exciting Josh Inglis. Matthew Wade, the incumbent keeper, has had an ordinary 2021 with the bat, averaging just 15.20 at a strike rate of 122.58. Inglis, on the other hand, had a spectacular Big Bash League, scoring over 400 runs at an average of 34.41 with an impressive strike rate of 140.
Australia’s probable playing XI:
Aaron Finch (C), David Warner, Steve Smith, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Josh Inglis, Marcus Stoinis, Ashton Agar, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Adam Zampa.