Australia’s reputation as the premier cricket team in the world has not been merely built by their winning record, but also due to their constant ability to improvise and evolve.
Be it Test cricket or One-dayers, they have constantly set high standards and also found the right personnel to give them the cutting edge. Getting Adam Gilchrist to open in ODIs, or finding all-rounders like Ian Harvey who were so effective in bowling seamers and varying the pace, Australia always stayed ahead.
While they have won four of the last five 50-over World Cup titles, the World Twenty20 title has eluded them. In the five previous editions, they managed to reach the final just once, in 2010 in Barbados where England thumped them by seven wickets.
Although Aussie players are among the most sought after in the franchise cricket, be it the IPL or the Big Bash, when it comes to the international side, they have somehow not lived up to expectations.
They lost 0-3 to India at home in January, although it can be explained that they were testing out combinations in the build-up to the WT20. However, as Australia prepare to face Bangladesh in their Super 10 Group 2 tie on Monday, the line-up seems to be preventing them from finding their explosive best.
In the opening game in Dharamsala, which New Zealand won defending a modest total of 141, Australia failed to cash in even after being 51-1 at one stage. Usman Khawaja, who has been in outstanding form for country and in Big Bash, opened with all-rounder Shane Watson with David Warner pushed to No 4. Top-rated T20 opener, Aaron Finch, who was the captain in the format, has been pushed to the bench altogether.
Warner’s position is the most strange. The dangerous Test and ODI opener built his destructive reputation playing in the IPL while Finch, 29, is among the fiercest hitters in the game.
Skipper Steve Smith, who has failed to fire in the format since taking over from Finch, acknowledged that Australia have under-achieved. “We haven’t played as well as we would have liked in this format,” he said. “I still think we have the right personnel here to get the job done… We have a lot of power in the shed.”
Smith though felt the reorganised middle-order, where the destructive Glenn Maxwell bats at No 5 and all-rounder Mitch Marsh at 6, will need to fire. “For us it’s about making sure we improve in the middle overs and keep wickets so we can use that power to have some success over here.”
A simple reshuffle may give the batting that energy, and Bangladesh should be the ideal opponents to try that before Australia face Pakistan and India in what have become must-win matches for all three teams.
Teams are also a bit unsure about how pitches in India will behave. While New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson got it perfectly right, picking three spinners for the Nagpur turner and an extra seamer for Dharamsala, Australia may call up pacer Josh Hazlewood in place of left-arm spinner Ashton Agar if the Chinnaswamy Stadium pitch, which Smith called an “IPL kind of track”, stays that way.
“He’s got the skills, he hits the seam, and if there is still some grass on the wicket, you’ll see him coming into contention. There’s a little bit of grass in it.”