England v Australia, World Twenty20 final, Barbados

How T20s became a serious business for Australia

Peter English

May 15, 2010

Comments: 23 | Text size: A | A

Glenn McGrath almost does a Trevor Chappell, New Zealand v Australia, Twenty20, Eden Park, February 17, 2005
It's all in the delivery: Glenn McGrath rolls out an underarm joke in Australia's light-hearted Twenty20 debut Hamish Blair / © Getty Images
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Twenty20 began as a giggle for Australia, who treated it as a third-rate concept and preferred to save their focus for Tests and ODIs. It was an approach that resulted in them quickly becoming also-rans in the format, something that hurt them more than they expected. Eventually the lack of results forced a regeneration that has led to Michael Clarke's men making the World Twenty20 final against England in Barbados on Sunday.

A gimmicky new format
17 February, 2005
New Zealand and Australia turned up to a retro costume party to christen the new fad in Auckland and Ricky Ponting summed up the affair. "I think it is difficult to play seriously," he said. Ponting was the star with 98 off 55 balls, including five sixes, but never matched the performance again, or warmed to the style of play.

In modern terms he was a traditionalist, like most of his team-mates at the time, and Twenty20 was a popular gimmick. Still, Australia have beaten their initial total of 214 only once since then and Ponting wasn't totally dismissive of the concept. "If it does become an international game then I'm sure the novelty won't be there all the time."

Heading south at Southampton
13 June, 2005
Australia didn't realise it then, but the start of their Ashes defeat began at Southampton during the second Twenty20 international. They scored only 79 after being 31 for 7, and misread the mood of England. Damien Martyn outlined the outlook of the coach John Buchanan, who was focussing instead on the opening Test.

"Buck was saying: 'It's only a muck-around game, don't worry about it'," Martyn said. "We trained for four hours on the morning. So we went from the nets next door, busting a gut, into a T20 game where they rolled up playing it like a Test match and flogged us."


A worried Ricky Ponting in the dug-out, Australia v Sri Lanka, ICC World Twenty20, Trent Bridge, June 8, 2009
Ricky Ponting wonders where it all went wrong in the 2009 World Twenty20 © Getty Images
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A World Cup isn't a big deal
September 2007
A global trophy was crafted quickly for the shortest game, but Adam Gilchrist and his team-mates were more concerned with the upcoming tour of India than the matches in South Africa. "It was no secret that our attitude to Twenty20 cricket was undeveloped," Gilchrist wrote in his autobiography. "As a group, we didn't think this tournament was that big a deal."

An opening loss to Zimbabwe embarrassed them and they recovered to reach the semi-final, when they were knocked out by India. "It dawned on us that maybe Twenty20 would be the big revolution that some were predicting," Gilchrist wrote. Not winning a global tournament changed their thinking a little, but it was still more novelty than necessary.

First-round losers
6-8 June, 2009
It took three days and two defeats for Australia to drop from the 2009 World Twenty20, delivering more red faces and leaving them unranked for this year's event. Once again it was the first lapse on a trip that ended in Ashes defeat. "I'd like to be able to tell you that I knew what was going wrong," Ponting said after losing to Sri Lanka and exiting the tournament.

Australia had started to pick some specialists, but didn't have the batting fire power or bowling nous to counter West Indies or Kumar Sangakkara's outfit. Ponting had joked the side wouldn't lose its final group match because it would mean having to spend two weeks in Leicester. It wasn't so funny when it happened. At that point Australia had lost five Twenty20 internationals in a row and Ponting was soon announcing his retirement from the format.


Michael Hussey celebrates after the heist, Australia v Pakistan, 2nd semi-final, ICC World Twenty20, St Lucia, May 14, 2010
Twenty20 has provided a career highlight for Michael Hussey © Getty Images
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Team overhaul
16 October, 2009
Michael Clarke became the full-time captain and Cameron White, a bits-and-pieces player until now, was a surprise choice as his deputy. After years of trying to mix a couple of specialists with the Test and ODI stars, the Australian selectors show they are serious about putting together a side made for Twenty20.

"We've got a young and enthusiastic group, but we must recognise that we've got a lot of work to do in Twenty20 cricket and our recent form hasn't been good," Clarke said. "Naturally, we'll target the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean next year and I feel we have plenty of talent to genuinely mount a challenge in that tournament." It sounded more like hopeful PR talk at the time.

New team, old focus
May 2010
Following a warm-up loss to Zimbabwe, Australia were experiencing déjà vu. Even though the results hadn't yet changed, the demeanour had. Clarke even said Twenty20 had "become exactly the same as one-day and Test cricket". His men quickly displayed the same steel that has driven them in the other formats through most of the 2000s, and from the moment the tournament started they were a familiar foe to the rest of the world.

In the aftermath of the unbelievable semi-final victory against Pakistan, which took their streak to six, Michael Hussey rated the winning feeling better than his 2006-07 Ashes moment in Adelaide. The comparisons may seem unreasonable to traditional cricket followers, but they prove the team is no longer treating Twenty20 like a toy.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

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Posted by   on (May 17, 2010, 5:20 GMT)

Undoubtedly Michel Clarke is an excellent player in Test cricket and one day cricket, as well as he is a great leader of Australian side, but he is not well suited to T20 game. In a nutshell, he must be replaced by other player in T20 as soon as possible if Australia intends to succeed. Furthermore, Brad Haddin behind the wicket has been extra ordinary but with the bat his performance was not good enough at this level so Tim Paine can fill his place as well. Overall, Australian players fought tightly and deserved to final spot, but unfortunately they were beaten by a better team in final. Many times Asian countries' fans, cricketers and commentators have been jealous due to their dominance on world cricket but I am quite sure that this side could be a winner of not only T20 world cup but also ICC world cup next time.

Posted by Ganes.V on (May 16, 2010, 17:31 GMT)

I am Sorry I can't accept this. When every other team was playing the game seriously, it is hard to believe that Australia did not take it seriously! It is also wrong to say that they have taken it seriously only this year and they reached the finals! Please do not belittle other teams who have done well all through. It would be true to say that Australia found it difficult to adapt to the new version of the game and it is just now that they have started getting used to this version.Please do not support Australia blindly. India and Pakistan won the initial two years T20 WC after playing their heart out and please accept that. Australia is a very good team with world class players and the inaugral year saw Gilchrist, Hayden and other stars in their team. So to say they were not serious is wrong- just byGilchrist writing it in a biography also doesnot prove it. Sorry to say this article is not worth it! Blind support is all what it seems to me.

Posted by usmanHM on (May 16, 2010, 15:17 GMT)

Australia is a very good team, no doubt. But it is really strange to read and hear from many that this team initially didn't took the game serious. Whose fault was that and why this story is being hyped. India won first word cup and Pakistan's performance in T20's has been awesome. To say that this Australian team was not not serious, is not to give credit to other teams which have performed well. If this is the case, I think Aussies were not serious till 1987 world cup as well. In fact, Aussie's writer are not serious to think about that this was just a miracle to win this semi-final, and credit to Pakistan who severely punished Aussie bowlers. Please stop this drama, n enjoy n celebrate on your own without disgracing other teams giving such non-sense comments.

Posted by RogerC on (May 16, 2010, 15:16 GMT)

Is Peter saying that a proud team like Australia lost T20 matches until now because they don't find it serious enough? A loss hurts in any form of game. No team wants to lose in an international match. The truth is that only now Australia has the right players and right skills to win T20 consistently. Going by Peter's logic, we can say that Ireland and Zimbabwe are not winning T20 because they are not serious about it.

Posted by usmanHM on (May 16, 2010, 15:08 GMT)

Australia is a very good team, no doubt. But it is really strange to read and hear from many that this team initially didn't took the game serious. Whose fault was that and why this story is being hyped. India won first word cup and Pakistan's performance in T20's has been awesome. To say that this Australian team was not not serious, is not to give credit to other teams which have performed well. If this is the case, I think Aussies were not serious till 1987 world cup as well. In fact, Aussie's writer are not serious to think about that this was just a miracle to win this semi-final, and credit to Pakistan who severely punished Aussie bowlers. Please stop this drama, n enjoy n celebrate on your own without disgracing other teams giving such non-sense comments.

Posted by insightfulcricketer on (May 16, 2010, 14:44 GMT)

I think Aussie dominance of cricket is a lesson for the other cricket boards too. Look at the Indian cricket board. 2007 is becoming clearer was a case of low expectations and flash in the pan. But what really helped at the time was RP Singh and Sreesanth were bowling consistently around 140 and swinging the ball . Look where they are now and the current crop seems to have forgotten how to swing.Cricket boards have to become professional and expect professional behavior from the players too. Yuvraj and Rohit Sharma came to this tournament obviously fat. Board should have publicly not selected them .That would have sent a strong message to other players too. They just cannot turn up to get their million dollar checks in the mail. If their hunger to perform and excel is satiated then get them out of setup now - there are enough hungry players performing in the hot and baked maidans of Indian cricket!!!

Posted by DrDagli on (May 16, 2010, 14:28 GMT)

It is strange that the captain of this great Australian Team - Michael Clerk is the worst performer of T20 with a hopeless strike rate of 70 odd. According to me,over past few years, the way he has been playingT20 and ODIs he, on merit, does not deserve to be in the Australian team.!! His captaincy is avg and still he is called "Mike Brarely of Australia".. may be because of his FLOP batting show, certainly not because of his leadership...That's the way Cricket Australia functions.A flop leading a team of 10 match winners!!!!!! If England wants to win the world cup they should let Michael Clerk play from one end till the end of 20 overs!!!!!

Posted by manishda on (May 16, 2010, 14:09 GMT)

i think this time the Aussies have picked up an ideal team that 1 needs for t20 cricket. talking of Clarke being the captain of the side ... no doubt he has a wonderful record as a captain ... but to be honest he hasn't really contributed to the side much... either with his batting or with his captaincy .... yes captaincy bcoz the side is good enough to be performing well together as a unit..in the semi - final match against Pak ,they were never really the favourites to win the match in the 1st 39 ovrs .... but the moment of excellence frm mike hussey sealed it for the aussies....... this also tells u that that in t20 cricket unlike test and odi a moment of brilliance can be good enuf at times to ovrshadw cumulation of gud efforts the final aus v eng .. hopefullyit wl b as nailbitting as the inaugral t20 wc final between ind & pak ... i hop eng wins ths bcoz they badly need an icc trophy in their cabinet ...

Posted by   on (May 16, 2010, 12:54 GMT)

In that mix Michael clarke is a misfit. He should also concentrate only on tests.

Posted by Geraldine on (May 16, 2010, 12:32 GMT)

As long as Australia think they can get away with just 10 players and a specialist captain (who really isn't even a specialist captain), I won't believe they are really taking T20 seriously.

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Tournament Results
Australia v England at Bridgetown - May 16, 2010
England won by 7 wickets (with 18 balls remaining)
Australia v Pakistan at Gros Islet - May 14, 2010
Australia won by 3 wickets (with 1 ball remaining)
England v Sri Lanka at Gros Islet - May 13, 2010
England won by 7 wickets (with 24 balls remaining)
West Indies v Australia at Gros Islet - May 11, 2010
Australia won by 6 wickets (with 22 balls remaining)
India v Sri Lanka at Gros Islet - May 11, 2010
Sri Lanka won by 5 wickets (with 0 balls remaining)
More results »
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