Cricket

Impact players chase the elusive one

David Warner of Australia bats during game one of the Twenty20 International match between Australia and India at Adelaide Oval on January 26, 2016 in Adelaide, Australia.   | Photo Credit: Daniel Kalisz

Australia will seek to bury the disappointments of the past in the ICC World Twenty20. Steven Smith’s team, will not be lacking in motivation. This is the only major ICC title to have eluded the Aussies so far.

The one man who could have spearheaded Australia to the title – the mercurial Mitchell Starc of scorching speed and stinging toe-crushers – will be missing in action owing to fitness concerns. Without him and the now-retired Mitchell Johnson, Australia is a lesser force.

>It’s still a side with ‘impact’ players. Game-changers the team has in plenty. David Warner, Aaron Finch, Smith, Shane Watson, Glenn Maxwell and James Faulkner are all cricketers who can swing matches.

Despite the presence of powerhouse batsmen and versatile, multi-dimensional cricketers, Australia paradoxically, has failed to pull together as a unit in this competition.

In fact, Australia’s best finish in this tournament has been > a second place finish in the 2010 edition in the Caribbean.

Australia has given priority to its title bid this time around. The side has roped in the formidable Michael Hussey and former India cricketer S. Sriram as consultants. Sriram will lend his inputs to the side on the conditions and the challenges of India and how best to overcome them.

Much of Australia’s chances will depend on how its batsmen counter spin on surfaces where the ball is expected to grip and turn. It will be a lot about use of feet, forward and back, and how well the singles and twos are plucked under the nose of the fielders.

Putting up sizable totals or chasing them is not about big hits alone, even in the greatly abbreviated Twenty20 format. It’s a lot too about subtlety and soft hands, about knowing when to hang in there without losing momentum and when to explode. Here, skipper Smith will have to show the way.

Australia is short of world class spinners, but, rightly, hasn’t ignored spin. In left-arm spinner Ashton Agar and leg-spinner Adam Zampa, the side has two bowlers who can spin the ball away from the right-hander; a very effective delivery in these conditions. Zampa, who delivers a decent googly, can be employed against the left-handers too. The lack of a full-fledged off-spinner, Maxwell surely isn’t one, could hurt the side though.

This side’s bowling will be far better than that of the > Aussie side that India whacked 3-0 in the Twenty20 series on flat decks down under. In Josh Hazelwood and Nathan Coulter-Nile, the Aussies have two top-notch pacemen with movement and bounce. Of course, Faulkner’s yorkers and canny changes in pace will be handy in the end overs.

Many of the Aussie cricketers are marquee names in their respective IPL franchises. Can they fire collectively for the elusive World Twenty20 title? Forget the rankings, the ability is there.

X-Factor: Shane Watson can bat through an innings, absorbing the pressure, manipulating the strike and shaking the field. He can also hit the ball with brutal force, boosting run-rates and shrinking asking rates. With the ball, the wily Watson mixes it up with his accurate seamers. Given his IPL experience, he is familiar with these conditions. The man, clearly, is a match-winner.

Trivia: Did you know Australia paceman Andrew Tye, a late developer, made his Twenty20 debut only at the age of 27?

Australia’s last five Twenty20 matches: W, L, L, L, L.

ICC Twenty20 ranking: 8.

Australia in World Twenty20: 2007: Semifinals; 2009: Round one; 2010: Runner-up; 2012: Semifinals; 2014: Round two.

Eom.




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