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Cricket World Cup 2023

Tanveer Sangha could be the wild-card World Cup bolter to make the difference for Australia

Tanveer Sangha
by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

Australia have selected uncapped 21-year-old leg-spinner Tanveer Sangha in their provisional squad for the fifty-over World Cup in India later this year.

Sangha has been picked as one of three spinners in the squad. While Ashton Agar and Adam Zampa are both still ahead of him in the pecking order, in being selected Sangha has overtaken other spinners who have featured for Australia over the last 12 months. Mitchell Swepson and Matt Kuhnemann played ODIs in Asia last winter, but neither has made the World Cup squad. Kuhnemann, in particular, is a surprising omission behind Sangha. He took six wickets in four games in Sri Lanka and seemed very much in Australia’s plans. When you also consider Sangha has not played professional cricket for a year after suffering a stress fracture in his back, his selection looks even more puzzling. But, though he’s short on experience, a deeper look into his numbers and past performances shows why he’s in.

Sangha’s most significant calibre comes from T20 leagues, having played 28 games as opposed to just five List A and eight first-class matches. His breakout season was in the 2020-21 Big Bash. He took 21 wickets in 15 appearances for Sydney Thunder, the leading spin bowler in the competition. That success led to several inclusions in Australia T20I squads, but he never broke into the starting XI. Despite that, he backed up his 2020-21 BBL season the following year, where he took 16 wickets in 12 matches. For that performance, he won praise from several star names in the tournament, including Melbourne Stars’ Andre Russell.


“I commended him and I said ‘listen, you have a big heart and I like spinners that are not afraid to bowl to big hitters’,” Russell said after Sangha had won a moral victory when the pair clashed, hitting the stumps but without enough force to dislodge the bails. “He was doing really really well. He was bowling into my body and mixing his pace. He’s not afraid to bowl in the power surge over to me…he did well, so hats off to him. He just has a bright future. He has a long way to go and if he can be doing this, now, he’s just improvement [to come].”

That first Big Bash season came off the back of the U19 ODI World Cup, in which he was undoubtedly Australia’s breakout star. He finished fourth in the wicket-taker standings, with 15 from six matches, including two five-fors, and an economy rate of 3.58. Most memorably, he was crucial against Afghanistan, where he took four wickets and hit a six off the final ball to win the game.

The provisional squad Australia have picked will also face South Africa and India before three of their number are dropped ahead of the tournament. It’s hard to think Sangha won’t make his debut in one of those prior matches. In terms of how likely he is to make the final squad of 15, having a young, fairly unknown attacking leg-spinner on Indian surfaces seems like an attractive option.

Equally, while Zampa has had significant success for Australia since the last World Cup, they have struggled for a reliable second spinner. Zampa has the most wickets of any full-member nation spinner since the last competition with 66. But the next most prolific Australia spinner is the 36th name on that list, Ashton Agar, who has 12 wickets in as many games. While Agar gives Australia the option to make their batting order deeper, they have named four seam-bowling all-rounders in their squad, diminishing the need for that.

On the face of it, Sangha is an uncapped player with limited game time in the last year, with other, more established options ahead of him. But he’s also a new and exciting young talent, with a record of success up against the world’s best. He could be exactly what Australia need for their World Cup campaign.

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