World Twenty20 2012 September 18, 2012

Underrated Australia remain a threat



A month ago, Australia's Twenty20 captain George Bailey said that he believed there were about nine teams that could win the World Twenty20 title. Three weeks later, Australia slipped to tenth on the ICC rankings. For a few days they were, as far as the ICC was concerned, a worse T20 side than Ireland. It is easy to write Australia off as a Twenty20 team. They have one of the least settled sides in the tournament. Their captain hadn't even played an international match nine months ago. Since the last World T20, when they reached the final, they have had the worst win-loss ratio of any sides except Zimbabwe, Canada and Kenya. Not since Six & Out released Can't Bowl, Can't Throw has Australian cricket been responsible for such an abysmal record.

But opponents will disregard Australia at their peril. John Inverarity's selection panel made some changes when they chose their first T20 squad earlier this year, not the least of which was installing Bailey as captain instead of the incumbent Cameron White. It was a bold decision, for Bailey's T20 form did not warrant selection, but the panel believed a quick-thinking captain was more important in T20 than in any other format, and after leading Tasmania for several years Bailey was viewed as an intelligent leader and tactician. Under his command, Australia have won three matches, lost three and tied another that they eventually lost in a Super Over. Their 94-run thrashing of Pakistan in Dubai just over a week ago is testament to what this Australian line-up can achieve when all goes to plan and barring a disaster against Ireland on Wednesday, Bailey's men have the potential to cause some trouble in the Super Eights.

The squad features a mixture of experience and youth. The oldest player in the tournament is the 41-year-old spinner Brad Hogg, whose selection was just as brave a move as making Bailey captain. He is likely to share the spin duties with Glenn Maxwell, 23, a power-hitting allrounder who was uncapped when chosen in the squad. David Warner and Shane Watson have the potential to be one of the most frightening opening combinations in the tournament, and only Brendon McCullum has hit more sixes in Twenty20 internationals than Watson's 47 and Warner's 46. Michael Hussey remains one of the game's best finishers. Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins are two of Twenty20 cricket's most exciting young fast bowlers. And the man with more T20 runs than anyone else in the world, David Hussey, is also in the squad, even if he appears to have slipped out of the starting line-up. The sum of the parts should be considerable, but whether they will add up to a cohesive whole is the great unanswered question.

Key players

Nobody carries the hopes of the Australian public in Twenty20 quite as much as David Warner. Ever since he burst on to the scene with 89 from 43 balls in his international debut against South Africa three and a half years ago, Warner has been the personification of T20 in Australia. If he gives the side a quick start, and sustains it for more than a few overs, Australia will be tough to beat. But on the slow Sri Lankan pitches he will come up against plenty of quality spin, which is his weakness, and finding a way to not only survive that but score briskly against it looms as his biggest challenge.

Surprise package

Few men have surprised the Australian public quite like Brad Hogg has over the past year. Hogg retired from international cricket in early 2008 and quickly disappeared from the spotlight, other than the occasional appearance as an overly exuberant commentator. Even when he was lured back to play the Big Bash League, the attention was on his fellow spinners Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill more than Hogg. But his canny bowling and hard-to-pick wrong'un made him a serious weapon for the Perth Scorchers, who reached the final, and in January the national selectors approached him about making a comeback with the World T20 in mind. So here he is. At 41, Hogg is old enough to be the father of some of his team-mates, but has the potential to be one of Australia's key weapons on spinning pitches.


The Australians enjoy the ball coming on to the bat and are less keen on facing spin, when they are forced to create the pace themselves. So-called "mystery spinners" can be especially baffling to them, as Saeed Ajmal showed during the recent series in the UAE. Maintaining momentum through the middle order can also be a problem, for men like Bailey, White and Matthew Wade can sometimes take a few too many deliveries to get in.

World T20 history

Such has been the gloom around Australia's T20 prospects that it's easy to forget they made the final of the most recent tournament, losing to England in the Caribbean in 2010. They reached the semi-finals in 2007 but the 2009 tournament was their nadir, when they were bundled out in the group stages after losing to Sri Lanka and West Indies.

Recent form

The most relevant form-line starts when Bailey took over as captain and the new selectors assembled a squad with the World T20 in mind. Since that time Australia have won three, lost three and tied another that they went on to lose in a Super Over. Under Bailey they have had wins over Pakistan, India and West Indies, and in 2012 their record is superior to that of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • gurinder on September 19, 2012, 11:45 GMT

    i think INDIA is favourite for this, partly because they thrive on t20 and beaten sl in recent series in lanka easily , best batting unit decent bowling attack and huge crowd support, england aus and saf will be deers in headlight infront of wwc winners , pak is mine second favourite as we were one country not long ago. my state is half in india and pakistan , also wud love if sri lanka wins , they have marvelous big hitters and decent spin attack, malinga is x factor , wi relly heavily on batting, bowling below par for asian batting conditions, england is inexperienced and wud be taken to cleaners with club class bowlers like swann, tim broad, overrated buttlers and jimmeys, saf only relly on jak, amla, ab, steyn is liality in subcontinent, morkel bowls length which is suicide in sl, philander will rested before he cud swing ball, bangla has come of age , cud beat anyone on day,they r new pakistan, india relly on spin and variations but have too much talent to not win cup,

  • Geoffrey on September 19, 2012, 9:53 GMT

    @jonesy2- actually I think most of your comment was guff, it's actually a lack of talented cricketers in Australia that is the main problem.

  • Dummy4 on September 19, 2012, 9:28 GMT

    Dear Ireland coach, please remember 'Australia is Cuming' today and 'West Indies are Waiting'.

  • Bryn on September 19, 2012, 5:27 GMT

    i would say they would be equal favs with india, then SA, SL, pak and windies come next then NZ then bangladesh and england mainly going by the strength of the domestic tournaments more than anything else because thats really the only way you can gauge any sort of guide. australia's weakness is not against spin at all its about the mental state of just purely attacking and getting the right balance of confidence and respect for the opponents. sometimes australia respect the opponents way too much instead of taking them down. but hey thats the beauty of this tournament and form of the games, anyone can beat anyone, nobody knows the best way to play the game and nobody can predict what is going to happen just look at the last tournament with husseys miracle against pakistan then the best team all tournament long lost in the final the one of the very worst sides in the tournament

  • hayden on September 19, 2012, 4:40 GMT

    would rather warner, watson, starc, hussey and any other likely to be picked in the test squad be at home playing in the opening shield fixtures! couldnt care if we loose to ireland and the windies and head straight back home to prepare for the saffers!!!! infact i would love that!!! leave 20/20 to the nations who actually like it, dont care if its an icc trophy that we havent won. once we have the ashes, the mace and the real cricket world cup back in the trophy cabinet then perhaps worry about this.

  • Pat on September 19, 2012, 3:12 GMT

    @Naren - I couldn't agree more. I have no idea why White is still in the squad, let alone being picked ahead of David Hussey.

  • Brett on September 19, 2012, 1:24 GMT

    RJHB - I think the players are now starting to take this format seriously as Warner's example shows that good performances in it can lead to Test and ODI appearances - Bailey is another case in point and it will be very important for Starc and Cummins as well as the competition for places in the Test attack will be very intense and you need to make every post a winner. I think Australia will do OK but how OK really comes down to only 4 players - Watson,Warner,Starc and Cummins - and they will need to be exceptional in every match for Australia to make the semis or better.

  • Andrew on September 19, 2012, 0:04 GMT

    @RJHB on (September 18 2012, 23:33 PM GMT) - yes, great if we win the Cup, but I'd easily trade it for an Ashes win or the 2011 ODI W/Cup. More interested in NSW v WA to be honest!

  • Rohanj on September 18, 2012, 23:33 GMT

    Maybe thats the real positive of T20 cricket at this level- that almost any team on its day can beat any other team. The best team doesn't always win and atleast for this game, thats a good thing. Australia's batting is extremely hit or miss so while they can potentially hit 200 in consecutive games, they're just as likely to be bowled out for 50 the game after! The fielding is not always A+ either. The bowling, at the moment with Starc in tremendous form, is very very good and may cause some serious problems for many teams. But once again, if Australia win, great, if we don't, who cares?!

  • Marcio on September 18, 2012, 22:31 GMT

    Australia definitely have a side that can win the cup, but as Bailey pointed out, so do plenty of other teams. They have weaknesses, but so do all the other teams - IND have pop-gun bowlers, PAK's top order looks really shaky against pace, ENG are very short on experience, etc etc. T20 history is pretty much irrelevent, as there are few games played, most have little importance. The T20 format has been used by AUS as testing grounds for new players. All that matters here is what happens on the day. Period. The rest is just chest beating and wishful thinking.

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