Ahead of this winter’s T20 World Cup, Rohit Sankar tries to work out what Australia’s first-choice XI in T20Is looks like.
Australia will field a depleted side on their limited-overs tours of West Indies and Bangladesh, with Steve Smith injured and six other regulars unavailable – Pat Cummins, Glenn Maxwell, David Warner, Marcus Stoinis, Jhye Richardson and Kane Richardson – because, according to a release from Cricket Australia, they “requested not to be considered for the tour for various reasons”.
In a T20 World Cup year, their absence could come at a personal cost, raising questions over what Australia’s best T20I side is, and giving opportunities for fringe players to impress. “I was a little bit surprised,” limited-overs skipper Aaron Finch confessed recently to radio station SEN WA, when discussing the absences of the senior Aussie players. It wasn’t just a one-off off-hand comment from the Aussie skipper.
Ahead of the side’s departure to the Caribbean on June 28, Finch went to the extent of stating that these players are in serious danger of missing out, while throwing an open invite to the newbies in the Australia squad to grab their opportunities.
“You have to go on current form, and you pick guys who are playing well,” Finch said while speaking to the media. “Playing cricket for Australia and doing well is the ultimate, in my opinion. So for guys to be on this tour, to get the first opportunity to really put their hand up and take a spot is what it’s about.”
Concluding it with the statement that “it’s tough to ignore really good international performances”, Finch has raised speculation over what squad Australia would take to the T20 World Cup later this year. That’s more of a headache for the selectors, though. Here, we step into an ideal world, one where there are no superstars and no internal egos and friendships, and explore what Australia’s best XI would be for the T20 World Cup.
While Finch and David Warner or Finch and D’Arcy Short have opened 25 times out since the last T20 World Cup, Australia’s current dynamic, and an abundance of top-order batters means that Finch, who is a decent player of spin, will be better suited to the middle-order.
This leaves Warner at the top, to be partnered by Josh Philippe or Matthew Wade. Chris Lynn is the other option, and on flatter decks Lynn could push out one of those middle-order guys to slot in at the top with Warner’s partner moving down. Philippe was the third-highest run-getter in the recent BBL, and struck at a rate of nearly 150. His approach sits well with Warner’s newly adopted mantra of starting slow and batting through. As does Wade’s, who has been in riveting form in T20Is. Wade might just edge Philippe to the spot for the T20 World Cup.
Middle-order & wicketkeeper
Heads up, there’s no Steve Smith in this T20I XI. Arguably the greatest Test batter 0f the 21st century, Smith is better suited to the longer formats with Australia having several other options in the middle-order. Glenn Maxwell, who made a terrific turnaround to his IPL returns this season, slots in at No.3 with Aaron Finch at No.4. Both are exceptional players of spin too. While Marnus Labuschagne’s recent run of form in the BBL and T20 Blast makes him a tempting pick, he falls right into the Smith bracket and does not add much to the line-up.
In the lower middle-order, Australia have been inclined to use the likes of Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Marsh and Alex Carey, But a left-field option that could spruce up the side is Perth Scorchers’ Josh Inglis, the wicketkeeper-batsman who recently went on a rampage for Leicestershire in the T20 Blast. With a T20 career strike-rate nearly touching 150, and an array of extraordinary shots up his sleeve, Inglis gives a different dimension to Australia’s batting line-up. He will also keep wicket in this side. The line-up is complete with Ashton Turner, his Perth teammate, who is an impressive death-overs batsman and has been in and out of the T20 side.
Adam Zampa is the first-choice spinner in the side, but Australia could also very well slot in Ashton Agar, who has the best economy rate and the second-most wickets among Aussie bowlers since the last T20 World Cup. With Maxwell adding a part-time option, turning the ball from left to right unlike the two lead spinners, Australia have a really handy spin group for the World Cup that will be held in either India or the UAE.
An abundance of options means that Australia will need to handpick the quicks they really want in the side. Mitchell Starc is a high-end top-and-tail fast bowler, who can pick wickets in the powerplay, and be effective in the death too. Jhye Richardson fulfills a similar role, having found success in the Big Bash League — 15 and 29 wickets in the last two BBL editions at an economy rate less than 7.5 — and also adding weight as a late-order hitter. Pat Cummins, despite not finding consistent success in T20s yet, is the ideal third foil to this attack as the enforcer, but Riley Meredith will push him for a place in the XI in a similar role. He also adds variety to their death bowling options.
Australia’s best XI for T20 World Cup
David Warner, Matthew Wade, Glenn Maxwell, Aaron Finch (c), Josh Inglis (wk), Ashton Turner, Pat Cummins, Jhye Richardson, Ashton Agar, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa.
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