Thursday, August 16, 2012

Power and Experience the basis of Australia's World Twenty20 squad

The Australian squad comprises some of the most fearsome batsmen in Twenty20 cricket, with some canny operators with the ball rounding up a formidable ensemble that will attempt to go one better than the runner-ups spot they achieved in 2010.

The top order:
On par with Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, David Warner and Shane Watson could make a case for being the most destructive opening partnership in all of limited overs cricket. While Warner and Watson are both susceptible to the moving ball, there is no reason they shouldn't dominate against the new ball on the slow wickets of Sri Lanka. Both have proven success in the subcontinent, and the most alarming factor for opposition bowlers is their ability to play long innings in the shortest format.

Australia have the flexibility to choose between a few players for the one down position. The smartest option could possibly be Cameron White. White had a tremendous season in the IPL, and has mastered the knack of pacing an innings in twenty20 cricket. He can easily milk singles the first few overs that he is at the crease, before effortlessly accelerating the strike rate.

Depending on circumstances, Matthew Wade or Michael Hussey could also fill in at no.3, especially if Australia want to keep a right-left combination going in case Warner gets dismissed cheaply.

The middle order:
Not much needs to be said about the Hussey brothers. Michael Hussey probably played the best innings in the brief history of the World Twenty20 in 2010, when he got 40 runs off the last two overs to win a memorable semi-final against Pakistan. Hussey is especially ruthless against spinners, being one of the best exponents of the slog sweep on slow pitches.

David Hussey serves as the ideal compliment to brother Michael. Right-handed, Hussey has the rare gift of looking settled in the crease, two balls into his innings. Hussey's greatest asset in t20 is his ability to play big shots and get runs quickly against the fast bowlers as well as spinners.

The last spot in the middle order will be filled by captain George Bailey. Bailey is extremely calm, and is an expert at assessing situations. Bailey doesn't have the power game to be naturally suited to bat at number at 6, however depending on the match situation, has the flexibility to bat anywhere between 4 and 8.

The all-rounders:
Shane Watson is cemented in the team as the leading all-rounder. Allied to his exceptional hitting, Watson is the best exponent of the yorker amongst the Australian bowlers.

Glenn Maxwell has become a sensation after his stint with Hampshire in the Friends Life t20, with his aggressive batting and wicket-taking off-breaks. He will be competing against Dan Christian, who has been Australia's all-rounder in limited overs cricket for most of the year.

Australia are not renowned for taking punts, but Christian hasn't replicated his 50 over success in the 20 over version of the game. Furthermore, with Watson already in the team, Australia could end up appreciating Maxwell's off-spin as an additional option in subcontinental conditions.

The bowling attack:
Pat Cummins is the next big hope of Australian cricket. The talented teenager has been unlucky with injuries so far in his career. Whenever he has been fit, Cummins hasn't disappointed. Mixing raw pace with great swing, Cummins is an extremely hard bowler to score runs off.

Mitchell Starc is too erratic for t20 cricket, so presuming Australia go with 2 fast bowlers, the choice to partner Cummins comes down to Clint McKay or Ben Hilfenhaus. Both McKay and Hilfenhaus have been extremely expensive in t20 cricket this year, and both are equally guilty of not being composed while defending tight chases. Hilfenhaus might just get the edge, as his natural swing might be more handy on the low wickets, compared to McKay's bounce.

Brad Hogg's selection could end up being the pick of the tournament. At the age of 41, Hogg is still bamboozling batsmen in t20 cricket, with his delightful chinaman delivery. He claimed wickets with guile and strategy while maintaining an excellent economy rate in both the BBL and the IPL, and many big-hitting middle order batsman might struggle to get him away in Sri Lanka. Xavier Doherty should partner Hogg, ensuring Australia have two completely different left-arm spinners on surfaces that should suit them.

The Final Verdict:
After taking a few years to adjust to the format, Australia are now one of the leading exponents of the Twenty20 game. The squad features some of the best performers in the IPL and the BBL, coupled with experience and an astute captain in unsung tactician George Bailey.

Australia feature in one of the most enticing ties of the first group stage in a game against the West Indies, but should have too much in their arsenal against Ireland. The stern challenge is in the Super Eights, where they are seeded to meet India, Pakistan and South Africa.

With the exception of Bailey, Australia have 6 batsmen in the team who could single-handedly win matches for them. There are doubts about the pace battery especially in the slog overs, however their under-rated spin attack of Hogg and Doherty could end up playing a crucial role. Despite a tough draw in their Super Eights group, this talented Australia team should make the semis, and if their best players perform, there is a real possibility of winning their first ever World Twenty20.