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June 1, 2009
Australia weren't interested in treating Twenty20 seriously until it morphed into a World Cup event and since being knocked out in the semi-finals in South Africa two years ago they have discovered they aren't so good at it. Talk has intensified about their desire to hold the trophy alongside the one-day World Cup, but there is no real expectation they will be at Lord's for the final on June 21. Ricky Ponting could promise only a "bold showing" in the lead-up, which is a significant downgrade of their traditional outlook.
They are in a tough group by Twenty20 standards and must finish ahead of either West Indies and Sri Lanka to progress to the last eight. Getting into the second phase could represent a successful trip, which is a strange thought when judging the side that has dominated the other forms of the game this decade.
In 21 of these matches Australia have won 11 and their form leading into the tournament was poor. They lost to Pakistan in Dubai last month when dismissed for 108 and were also defeated in the two-game series in South Africa.
While there has been a push to treat the format more seriously, especially since the explosion of prize money in the domestic leagues, the team's major players have often had a rest while the international Twenty20 engagements were staged. This has resulted in Brad Haddin captaining the side twice this year, including their last fully-fledged match before the World Twenty20. For Australia, Tests and the traditional World Cups are what matter most and they would swap an Ashes win for all of the World Twenty20's glory.
Some of the game's biggest names are sprinkled throughout the line-up, but Ponting, Clarke, Hussey and Lee carry some doubts despite their high standing. The safety and security of the elite will help the younger players fit in, but in such a short tournament the stars must shine or their tilt could be over in three days.
Overall international experience is impressive, but Ponting (15 matches), Clarke (16), Hussey (16), Symonds (9) and Lee (14) are light in Twenty20 knowledge, mainly because they rarely play at the domestic level. At stages over the past couple of years they have had to ask their more qualified state team-mates for tips. This could be telling under pressure.
With the batsmen attracting all the focus in this genre, the bowlers have a challenge to get noticed. Nathan Bracken is Australia's most accomplished Twenty20 wicket-taker with 19 at an almost miserly 6.75 an over. Bowlers might not win many of these games on their own, but Bracken is capable of providing a significant early shove.
Unlike many of his colleagues, David Hussey knows the game intimately. There were times of tentativeness over the summer in the one-day side, but in this format Hussey can shelve his fears and release his brutal, fence clearing swings. Andrew Symonds will want to explode to show he remains an asset to the national squad.
T20 form guide
Middle of the road. In six Twenty20s this year they have won the first three and lost the next three.
Squad: Ricky Ponting (capt), Michael Clarke, Nathan Bracken, Brad Haddin (wk), Nathan Hauritz, Ben Hilfenhaus, James Hopes, David Hussey, Michael Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, Peter Siddle, Andrew Symonds, David Warner, Shane Watson.
What's wrong with their cricket? Well, what isn't?
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