Hazlewood calls for Australia to play more T20s
Australia's record in World T20 events is a rather curious anomaly for a team that has generally bossed ICC events. The general perception - no doubt a result of holding Australia to the exalted standards they have set for themselves in the 50-over World Cup - is they have flopped in each of the five previous editions of the World T20, but in reality they have been hit or miss. Australia have managed two semi-finals and a final but have not made the knockouts in their other two attempts; in fact, their campaign in 2009 lasted a mere three days.
Some would suggest that Australia have rarely taken Twenty20 cricket seriously enough, despite their players being highly sought after in leagues across the world, not to mention the recent popularity of the Big Bash. The players disagree with such a notion but, undoubtedly, there is recognition that they need to play a greater number of T20Is.
In the last 12 months Australia have played only seven T20Is; among the eight top-ranked teams only England (7) and West Indies (2) have played that number or fewer. Pakistan (17), India (15), Sri Lanka (13) and South Africa (11) have played a considerably higher number of matches, with India and Sri Lanka stacking their calendar to such an extent that they have played eleven and nine matches respectively since the new year.
Australia fast bowler Josh Hazlewood reckoned his team would do well to adopt a similar approach and called for Cricket Australia to organise more T20 internationals in the lead-up to such big-ticket events.
"We obviously don't play as much T20 cricket as some of the other nations, and even in these conditions we don't play as much," he told journalists in Kolkata.
"I think we definitely could play T20 a little bit more leading into big tournaments like this and probably in conditions that we are going to face in the tournament. In the future that's something that we have to look at. It [India playing many games] is smart leading into a T20 tournament, to play a lot of that format that you are going to play. I think we are getting better at it but I think we still need to improve it."
John Hastings, Hazlewood's pace-bowling partner, agreed with the observation of their captain, Steven Smith, that the absence of many regular players from the Test and ODI side hurt Australia. He also felt that the heavy turnover of players didn't afford them much time to figure out their roles in the team.
"I think mainly it's because we haven't probably had a settled line-up over the years where the guys are resting at the back of a Test tour or a one day tour," he said. "There's been a lot of different players coming through and making their debuts for Australia in T20 cricket. So when you are always chopping and changing, it's difficult to have a really defined role in the side on what you want to get of it and what the team needs you to do."
Smith, however, was confident about Australia's chances given the number of players in the team who had knowledge of Indian conditions.
"Traditionally we haven't done as well as we would have liked in this format. This is a tournament that has eluded us so we're here to try and win it," he said. "We have all certainly played a lot of T20 cricket. We know how to play the game and if we do it to the best of our ability we are going to be a tough side to beat.
"I think IPL has been great in the development of a lot of players from all around the world. The experiences we have had from the IPL will hold us in good stead for this tournament. A lot of us know what to expect, what the conditions are going to be like. What it's like playing in front of big crowds here in India. We're really excited."
Hastings said Australia's 2-1 win in their recent T20 international series against South Africa was an injection of positive energy just ahead of the World T20. "It's been great that this last two weeks in South Africa we have had a pretty settled team," he said. "It's the same fifteen that are going to be with us right through for the next three weeks. I think that will hold us in better shape now [since] we know our guys inside out. Now it's about going out and executing our skills."
Arun Venugopal is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo