Bailey confident T20 bases are covered
George Bailey, Australia's Twenty20 captain, has said he expects the 15 men picked for the Twenty20 series against Pakistan in the UAE to be the same 15 who will carry Australia's hopes in the ICC World Twenty20 next month. Australia must name their final squad for the World T20 by Saturday and although a provisional 30-man group included surprise choices such as Dirk Nannes and Ben Laughlin, there are unlikely to be any wild-cards in the final squad.
That should mean a three-man spin attack including Brad Hogg, Xavier Doherty, and the uncapped Glenn Maxwell, while other exciting T20 performers such as Steven Smith, Mitchell Marsh and Aaron Finch are likely to miss out. The 15 men who will take on Pakistan have been in Darwin over the past week for a training camp and Bailey said he was pleased with the mix the selectors had brought together ahead of the World T20 in Sri Lanka.
"Yeah I'd hope [it will be the same squad], all things being equal. Hopefully that group of guys performs and stays fit and I think that's the 15 that will be best suited for us to go as far as we can in that tournament," Bailey told ESPNcricinfo. "We've got all bases covered. If we want to go in with a spin-laden team we can, or with all-rounders, or we've got some genuine pace.
"I think we've got absolutely everything covered for whatever conditions are thrown up in Sri Lanka. Also a lot of the games are played on the same venues, so we're expecting towards the back end of the tournament perhaps some tired wickets."
That could mean plenty of work for the spinners and accurate seamers such as Clint McKay, although first Australia must get through their group matches against West Indies and Ireland. By the end of the group stage, Bailey will not even have played ten Twenty20 internationals, having been thrust into the captaincy from outside the squad in January.
Since then, he has led his country to two wins and two losses from four games: two matches at home against India in February, and two in the West Indies in March. Until they convened in Darwin, his men have not been together for more than four months, with some having played in Australia's one-day tour of England, others having enjoyed stints in county cricket, and others having spent the winter at home.
The three T20s against Pakistan in the UAE early next month will therefore be priceless preparation for Bailey's side, especially given that last time they played, in the West Indies, the T20 squad was augmented by ODI players due to the distance from Australia and the infeasibility of flying T20 specialists around the world for two games.
"The back end of that Dubai tour will be really good," Bailey said. "It will be the first time we've been able to get that squad together for an extended period. Even just the time in Sri Lanka for the warm-up games I think will be really important just to actually start to get a feel for our specific roles and just having the group together continuously. I think that's been our biggest challenge as a cricket team, Twenty20 wise, has been just finding out about being a team rather than just a group of guys thrown together."
Gelling as a unit will be critical if Australia are to go one better than in the 2010 World T20, when they reached the final but lost to England. Despite that effort Australia are ninth in the ICC's T20 rankings, with only Ireland and Zimbabwe below them, but Bailey reads little into the rankings and believes the World T20 will be wide open for almost any side to win.
"I reckon there's about nine teams that at this stage could put their hands up and say they can win the tournament," Bailey said. "We firmly believe we're one of those. Playing in the subcontinent means all the subcontinent teams will be pretty dangerous. England and South Africa have got great depth and consistency in their teams and the way they play at the moment they'll be dangerous.
"First and foremost our biggest worry is West Indies, who are in our group. They have a team that is absolutely made for T20, great balance of pace, good spin bowlers and some of the best hitters in the world. It's going to be really tough and it's going to be very much about gelling our team and getting our heads around the fact that if we can put our best cricket together for two weeks, something very special could be at the other end."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here