John Hastings fine-tunes for World Cup battle
John Hastings is a giant allrounder who is new on the scene and preparing for a bits-and-pieces role in Australia's World Cup defence. Hastings contributed with the vital wickets of Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell in the series-sealing victory against England on Sunday to continue his steady rise.
That is just the sort of effort the Australians want from him, although they are also hoping for some handy runs from No.8. At Victoria Hastings is seen more as an evenly weighted allrounder, but the national set-up likes him for his clever changes of pace, including the slower bouncer that upset Pietersen on Sunday night.
Usually at this time in the World Cup cycle the teams are relying on players who have developed on the international stage over the previous couple of years. Hastings has appeared in only five ODIs and one Twenty20, so he will be learning on the job.
"I have played a Champions League [Twenty20] over there and made my international debut over there as well, I love playing in India," Hastings said before the team left for Sydney to prepare for Wednesday's sixth ODI. "There's massive crowds, lots of pressure, that's what I strive to play for. The wickets are lower and slower so you have to mix your pace up a little bit and that's why I think I have been brought into this team."
Hastings, 25, stands at 1.95m and is an intimidating presence on and off the field. He hasn't modelled himself on anyone but rates himself similar to Andrew McDonald, his Victoria team-mate. "He's a medium pacer with a lot of tricks and slower balls, and bats in the top six," he said. "My batting is probably not there at the moment, but I've got to play my role as best I can."
He was a batsman as a junior in New South Wales but has graduated into an accomplished bowler since switching states. "Batting is there in the background so I've got to keep working away at that," he said. "I can come in at No.8 and contribute, I've normally got five to 10 overs to bat."
Australia's World Cup plans have started to come together during the four wins against England and the one loss in Adelaide. Brett Lee is fit and bowling fast, and the opening combination of Shane Watson and Brad Haddin is beginning to settle.
Openers have been a major feature of Australia's three World Cup wins, with Matthew Hayden dominating in 2007, Adam Gilchrist doing well in 2003 and Mark Waugh succeeding in 1999. Michael Clarke, the stand-in captain, said Watson and Haddin were capable of providing a similar partnership to Hayden and Gilchrist.
"Watto and Hadds are a wonderful combination," he said. "They suit each other because on any given day one of them can go off and the other can play that anchor role. Add Ricky Ponting into that top four and I think we've got a pretty good batting order. The subcontinent conditions will really suit Watto and Hadds and the first 10 to 15 overs will be crucial to get off to good starts."
Peter English is the Australasia editor of ESPNcricinfo