Australia aims for missing title

Monday, 17 September 2012 00:53 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Australia has won the ICC Cricket World Cup an unprecedented four times, and is a two-time winner of the ICC Champions Trophy. However, success in the ICC World Twenty20 has remained elusive for three editions now, even though Australia did make the final of the ICC World Twenty20 2010 in the West Indies.

Mike Hussey’s heroics in the semi-finals against Saeed Ajmal knocked Pakistan out of the tournament, but Australia came unstuck against Craig Kieswetter and Kevin Pietersen in the final as England won its first global title.

For a team that has dominated world cricket for so long, Australia’s record, especially in ICC World Twenty20 tournaments, hasn’t been particularly impressive. Australia went down to India in the semi-final of the inaugural competition in South Africa in 2007, and crashed out in the group stages of the next tournament, in England in 2009 after losing to both the West Indies and Sri Lanka.

Australia’s overall Twenty20 International record is barely passable – just 25 wins from 49 games constitutes a modest record for a team as formidable as Australia. Its recent Twenty20 record is less than encouraging – three wins and four losses in its last seven matches including the 1-2 reversal against Pakistan in Dubai, and George Bailey, the captain, will be aware that Australia will have to lift its game several notches if it is to break its ICC World Twenty20 duck and pick up the one major piece of silverware missing from its cupboard.

Australia has been clubbed in Group B with Ireland and the West Indies, considered by many to be one of the strong favourites, and can’t therefore take it for granted that it will advance to the Super Eights. It will play its initial matches at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo, and its free-stroking batsmen will need to make large-scale adjustments to adapt to the nature of a surface that will not always encourage uninhibited strokeplay. Much will depend on the form of David Warner, among the most destructive batsmen in the world who can single-handedly influence the outcome of a game of cricket.

The one man capable of matching Warner’s mercurial batting is Shane Watson. With his big hitting at the top of the tree and useful medium-pace, Watson lends great balance, providing Bailey with multiple options.

The middle-order is not short on experience with Hussey brother Michael and David acknowledged masters of the shortest version, as well as adept at playing the slower bowlers with a wonderful mix of cheeky innovation and classical orthodoxy.

Australia seems to have all bases covered when it comes to the bowling. Watson and Daniel Christian will supplement a well-rounded and versatile pace attack bolstered by the return of the young Pat Cummins, and with spin expected to play its part, Bailey has the luxury of picking between Brad Hogg, the veteran left-arm Chinaman bowler, Glenn Maxwell and Xavier Doherty. Twenty20 cricket isn’t so much about the bits-and-pieces players as specialists in one department who are handy in the other. Australia has several such options but it will be a challenge for Bailey, relatively new to captaincy at the international level, to maximise the impressive resources at his disposal.

Australia is coming into the ICC World Twenty20 after six gruelling limited-overs internationals in the United Arab Emirates, against Pakistan. While the three ODIs and three Twenty20 fixtures are ideal preparation in the lead-up to the Sri Lankan sojourn, how well they recover from its exertions in the Emirates in enervating conditions could prove a major factor in three-hour slugfests of high intensity. (ICC).