Australia have a rich cricketing legacy. They were the champions of the game from 1999 to 2011, in Test as well as one-day cricket. But ever since the T20 format was made international by the International Cricket Council, for unexplained reasons the Aussies never gave it that much of importance. They would play it as if they were playing ‘festival or beach cricket’. This approach unfortunately never allowed Australia to become the world champions in the shortest format of the game. Being the methodical team they have always been, Australia played T20s pretty much like ODIs and thus have struggled.
In 2007, Ricky Ponting led the team to the last four of the World T20 in South Africa, only to lose to an inspired but a much inexperienced Indian team in the semi-final despite being one of the favourites to win the competition. Two years and Ponting would be again at the helm of the team, leading them to England for the event. But the result was worse as Australia were knocked out in the first round itself, losing to both Sri Lanka and West Indies. This however, was an unacceptable result and with that Ponting quit T20 internationals for good.
When it came to the 2010 edition of the event in the West Indies, it was Michael Clarke who was appointed captain of the team. T20s is not a format Clarke enjoys either batting in or leading the team in, which was evident even as Australia scrapped to the final, only to lose the chance of winning the championship to their archrivals England. Surprisingly, Clarke too decided that he had to quit T20 cricket and Cricket Australia decided that the format has to be used to give more youngsters a chance or those players who still have the potential to play for Australia.
So when it came down to selecting the 2012 team for the World T20, the selection committee looked at the players performances in the inaugural season of the Big Bash and thus a new look side was picked. Here are the 15 who will represent Australia in the event –
1) George Bailey
Bailey has been named the captain of Australia for the World T20 this time. He made history by making his international debut for Australia in the first T20 international against India in Sydney earlier this year, also being the captain of the side. So, with hardly any international experience, this is a huge opportunity to prove why he deserves to be a regular in Australia’s ODI team and can be made vice-captain in that format of the game, which means he could also be eligible to lead the ODI team in case Michael Clarke is absent for whatever reason.
He will turn 30 on September 7 this year, but he still has years of cricket left in him. He had to work extremely hard to rise in the ranks of domestic cricket, representing Tasmania which is also the home province of Ricky Ponting. His leadership qualities have been seen for the ‘Tassies’ as they are called, which is why he has been appointed as the T20 captain of the team. But he became more popular in the cricketing world with his exploits in the Indian Premier League for the MS Dhoni-led Chennai Super Kings team, being a part of it since the last five years alongside his Australian team mate Michael Hussey.
With the bat, Bailey has to play the role of taking the ones and twos on a regular basis and playing spin extremely well and this will be his other major challenge in Sri Lanka.
2) Shane Watson
The vice-captain of the team, Watson is definitely the key for Australia winning this year in the Emerald Isles. Being a typical Queenslander like his former teammates Matthew Hayden and Andrew Symonds, he is burly and the whole world knows how hard he can strike the ball. Although he was a bowling all-rounder earlier, he had to switch to become a batting all-rounder in order to avoid as many injuries as possible. Now, he opens the batting for his country in all formats of the game and Australia have benefitted from it to a certain extent.
In T20 internationals, Watson has a decent batting record although he would love to improve his average of 27. But a monstrous strike rate of 152 gives any opposition nightmares and thus he is the wicket any bowler will gun for in order to rip apart the rest of the batting line up. His bowling record on the other hand is not that impressive, but Watson’s wicket taking ability is known to many. If the team is in trouble, the Australian captain definitely turns to Watto for a turnaround.
His inspirational comeback began from the IPL 2008, being the man of the tournament in a winning campaign for the Rajasthan Royals and has been a part of that team ever since. If he can rediscover that form in this tournament, Australia could be hard to stop in the competition.
3) David Warner
One of the most explosive batters in world cricket at the moment, Warner in all likelihood will open the batting with Watson in this competition. He is another one of those who can make an opposition sweat, once he gets going with his aggressive stroke play. He can have the same impact as Sehwag on the mind of the bowler, and thus is a true match winner for his team.
In this squad, he is Australia’s second most experienced T20 player having played 33 T20 internationals for his country, making his debut against South Africa in Melbourne in 2009 and smashing a 43-ball 89 in the match. Like Watson, he too has an average of 27 but a strike rate of 141 which matters the most in this format of the game. Otherwise, he is the only batsman in the world to have hit two T20 centuries in a row, which was for New South Wales in the Champions League T20 last year in India.
Unlike other Australian batsmen, he can revel in the Indian subcontinent even as he is not an efficient player of spin. If Warner and Watson are dismissed early, almost half of the opposition’s job is done as they provide the momentum to this side.
4) Cameron White
White is the former T20 captain of Australia, until he was replaced by Bailey in January this year. Over the years, he has been one of the country’s most destructive batsmen, known mainly for his dashing shots. In fact, he also had the record of the highest individual score in all forms of T20 cricket until Brendon McCullum of New Zealand broke it in April 2008 in Bangalore with his famous 158 for the Kolkata Knight Riders in the inaugural match of the IPL. He is a known figure by Indian fans especially since he was a part of the Royal Challengers Bangalore from the 2008-2010 seasons and now the vice-captain of the Deccan Chargers franchise.
However, since the last 18 months, White has not been able to be at his attacking best and thus has been woefully out of form. This is the reason why he was removed from the ODI team as well as the captain of the T20 team. But he has a fantastic record when it comes to T20 internationals, averaging an impressive 32 and a strike rate of 140 in the 29 matches he has played so far. Besides, his experience in his format worked in his favour as Australia need that in unfavourable conditions in Sri Lanka this time.
Surely, he will take this as an opportunity to get back into the ODI team and possibly as the captain of the T20 team.
5) Michael Hussey
Does this man need much of an introduction? The elder Hussey is by far the most reliable and popular player of this new look Australian side. In the form of Cameron White and Michael Hussey, Australia have two seasoned middle order batsmen who have the ability of both stabilizing the innings or taking the game away from the opposition in a span of few overs. He may be the oldest member of the squad, but by far the most agile and vigilant. It is not only his batting, but his fielding too which wins Australia many matches and in T20 cricket, that is the key.
In the previous edition of the World T20, Hussey played what many rate as one of the finest T20 innings of all time in international cricket and in World Cups. It was his unbeaten 60 off just 24 balls against Pakistan which made Australia chase down a total which was getting out of hand after the 15 over mark. And he can play spin exceptionally well, as he hammered Saeed Ajmal for more than 40 runs in his last two overs.
Australia might thank the IPL if they win this competition as Hussey is another fine performer in that tournament. He has been consistent for the Chennai Super Kings, whether he has batted in the middle order or opened the batting. If he maintains his overall average of 38 and a strike rate of 148, this tournament should belong to the former world champions.
6) David Hussey
The younger Hussey is another valuable member of the Australian team, especially in T20 cricket. In fact, since many years he was considered to be a T20 specialist, so much so that he was valued more than his elder brother Michael Hussey and the then Australian captain Ricky Ponting during the IPL auction in 2008. Due to his decent outing with the Kolkata Knight Riders, he was snapped by Kings XI Punjab in 2011 for $ USD 1.2 million, making him the most expensive foreign player to be purchased that year by any team.
He is a complete all-round package. These days, he can be relied even more when it comes to his batting since he has become more calculative in his aggression. With the ball, he can very handy and in Sri Lankan conditions, he could actually have a ball. And of course when it comes to fielding, he is as good as his brother. This makes him a match winner for the Aussies and a tough nut for crack for any opposition which makes him dangerous.
This will be his third World T20 for the Aussies, having been a part of the team in the 2009 as well as the 2010 edition of the tournament. He scored 59 off 54 balls in the 2010 final against England, which bailed his team out of a precarious situation. He is Australia’s most experienced T20 cricketer in international cricket, having played 36 matches and having a highest score of 88 not out against South Africa in Johannesburg in 2009. His performance in the Pakistan series will give an indication whether he will be able to adapt quickly to the Sri Lankan conditions.
7) Daniel Christian
Australia’s squad is filled with multi-faceted players indeed! One of them is Daniel Christian, who is just perfect to represent the T20 national team. He is just 29, and one of the future mainstays of the Australian side in the shorter formats of the game. He bowls at a decent pace, is suited to bat at almost any position in the lower middle order and is a decent fielder too. The fiery South Australian might bring raw aggression back to this Australian side, which has been missing ever since Michael Clarke replaced Ricky Ponting as captain.
He came into prominence in the 2009-2010 season, in which he made his debut for South Australia and became an instant hit in the domestic circuit. The Australian cap was in the waiting and it was confirmed after South Australia won the 2010-2011 T20 Big Bash in which he starred once again both with the bat and ball. But perhaps the most memorable day of his life would be the IPL auction of 2011 when he was picked by the Hyderabad franchise for a whopping $USD 900,000, which means that he was valued more than the captain Kumar Sangakkara and his Aussie teammate Cameron White.
Indian fans do recognise him even as his performances in the last two years in the IPL have not been that impressive. But T20 suits his style the best and he would want to prove his detractors wrong who believe that he cannot play in the Indian subcontinent.
8) Glenn Maxwell
Born on October 14, 1988, Glenn Maxwell has the potential to become Australia’s regular in all three formats of the game in the future. The 23 year old right hand batter is a Victorian and is a part of the Victoria side in the Sheffield Shield domestic competitions and the Melbourne Renegades in the T20 Big Bash. He debuted for Victoria in ODI cricket in the 2009-10 season but like Christian, he made an impact for his team in the next season when he smashed a fifty in just 19 balls against Tasmania, which is now the record for the fastest fifty in the history of domestic ODIs in Australia.
With that knock, oppositions had to plan hard as to how to get to see the back of him. A Test century followed soon after for Victoria, which made the national selection panel notice him. A year later, he was picked by the Delhi Daredevils franchise in the 2012 IPL auction and played in three games in the IPL 2012. His stocks grew further with an impressive domestic T20 championship in England and finally got what he deserved – a call up to the T20 and ODI squads for the ongoing series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates.
Maxwell is one of the emerging talents of Australian cricket and if he does not get to play a single game in the World T20 this year, he could learn a lot from the experience of his teammates playing in Sri Lankan conditions. He has been picked ahead of Steven Smith though, and that is something controversial.
9) Matthew Wade
He is there in this World T20 squad since Brad Haddin, Australia’s wicketkeeper batsman in Tests has retired from T20 internationals and Tim Paine, who was said to be Haddin’s successor, is injured. Yet credit cannot be taken away from Wade to now become a favoured candidate in the eyes of the national selectors in at least T20s and ODIs. The wicketkeeper batsman hails from Tasmania but plays for Victoria in domestic cricket and is an integral part of the Melbourne Stars team in the Big Bash.
The biggest advantage with Wade is that he can bat anywhere in the order, which makes him ideal for T20 cricket. He is one of the hottest topics of discussion in the Australian cricketing circle at the moment, since the 24 year old’s rise has been dramatic let alone meteoric. This rise was noticed by the Delhi Daredevils franchise and thus they picked him for the 2011 IPL season, being the only foreign wicketkeeper batsman of the team. But his highest score in T20 internationals came this year when he opened the batting against India in Sydney.
The only problem with Wade is his fitness, but he should be able to manage in Sri Lankan conditions since it is the T20 World Cup being played there. He needs more experience and this will be his greatest opportunity to contribute something big for Australia.
10) Brad Hogg
Hogg is the oldest member of this Australian squad, being 41 years old. But this number does not bother him as he seems to have the energy, enthusiasm and fitness levels of a 20 year old, and even a 20 year old could be put to shame. The Chinaman has never got his due in limited overs cricket, mainly because of the presence of Shane Warne during his time and his inconsistency whenever he got the opportunity to play. With that, Australia changed their strategy to mainly play fast bowlers and thus he was overlooked time and again.
He retired from international cricket in March 2008, believing that his time was up and he was too old enough to play for the former world champions. Hogg was unheard of for three years after his retirement, until he decided to go into commentary and was prominent especially in the IPL. But as fate would have it, Hogg wanted to give another crack at some form of cricket and thus signed with his home franchise, Perth Scorchers for the 2011 Big Bash season.
He played a critical role in ensuring that Perth were the finalists in the tournament and qualified for the Champions League T20 this year. What the performance also ensured was a surprise return to the national side, although it was only for T20 matches. Hogg then played for the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL 2012, replacing Shane Warne (again!). His is an amazing comeback story and he could very much revel in conditions which will favour his style of bowling.
11) Xavier Doherty
He is the second specialist spin bowler in the squad alongside Brad Hogg, and like him is also a left armer. The 29 year old was born in Tasmania, making him yet another player to represent that province in this World T20 squad. In the last couple of years, Doherty has been amongst the top spinners in the country because of his consistent performances in domestic cricket. He has to be lauded for his patience in a country which is traditionally not very spin friendly.
He made it to the Australian team in the 2010-11 home season, but did not meet with much success in either ODI or Test cricket. He was unfairly compared to Warne when it comes to the damage that he can cause to a batting line up. Sure, Doherty can pick wickets but he is more of a run container and thus he has more chances of being successful in ODI cricket and to an extent, in T20 cricket. He had to face tough competition from Steven Smith, who was another prime contender to make it to this squad, but managed to win the selectors’ faith and give him in another chance.
This is the finest opportunity Doherty has to prove why he is actually Australia’s numero uno spinner at the moment. He could be played alongside Hogg since the conditions are spin friendly in Sri Lanka, and their combination could stump any opposition.
12) Clint McKay
McKay is in all certainty, going to be a part of the starting XI for the Aussies in the World T20. He has been a proven performer for the team in how many ever opportunities he has gained so far, with 57 wickets in 32 ODI matches. It is unfortunate that he too was overlooked due to Australia having an effective pace bowling arsenal over the years. He may have suffered from injuries time and again, but he is a hard working bowler and when at his best, deadly accurate.
He has had to wait for his turn to make it to the national team on a regular basis despite impressive performances in domestic cricket competitions in Australia as well as England. This could be the right tournament for him to get what he deserves and solve Australia’s current problem of not having an in form and experienced pacer in the shorter formats of the game due to the recent retirement of Brett Lee. Such is McKay’s stature in T20 cricket especially that he was picked by the Mumbai Indians franchise for the IPL in 2011 itself, and he must have learnt a lot about the Indian subcontinent even though he did not get to play many matches in the last two seasons.
13) Ben Hilfenhaus
If not McKay, Hilfenhaus could very soon be Australia’s No.1 fast bowler in all formats of the game. He was a decent bowler earlier, but lost his pace as well as consistency which is why the team did not require him for almost the whole of 2011. But the Tasmanian (yet another one!) did not lose hope and actually decided to improve on his bowling since that was the best way possible of getting back into the Australian team. He did so, and ended up as the highest wicket taker for Tasmania in the 2011-12 season in Test matches and he followed that up by also being the highest wicket taker for Australia in their 4-0 whitewash of India in the Test series at home.
Even when it comes to T20s, Hilfenhaus can adjust and that was seen in the Indian Premier League this year when he played alongside Michael Hussey for Chennai Super Kings, and won some matches singlehandedly. His spell of 4 wickets against the in form Delhi Daredevils in Chennai was outstanding, the most memorable wicket being that of Virender Sehwag. He can make the ball swing and that too at good pace, which makes him a tough nut to crack and a true match winner for Australia.
14) Mitchell Starc
New South Wales is the province that has produced the best quality of fast bowlers for Australia over the years. Take Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee for example. The 38 time Sheffield champions have produced another gem in the making in the form of Mitchell Starc, who is just 22 years but is a lanky left arm fast bowler with a tremendous amount of pace. If anyone sees him bowling for the first time, he will connect his bowling action instantly to that of his namesake teammate Mitchell Johnson who almost has the same figure as him too.
He has been consistent in the last three years in particular for the New South Wales and also for the Australian Under 19 team, which made him a prospect to watch out for in the future. But he came into prominence in the Champions League T20 last year in India, turning out for his home team and impressing many with the bounce and pace, especially on wickets which do not support his style of bowling that much.
Surprisingly, he is yet to play a T20 international for the Aussies even as he made his ODI debut in Vishakhapatnam in 2010 against India and his Test debut last year against archrivals New Zealand in Brisbane. He also troubled almost every Indian batsman in the home Test series last year, and thus is an addition to Australia’s strong pace attack in all formats of the game. It remains to be seen though, if Starc can use this tournament as a way of cementing his place in the ODI and T20 teams.
15) Pat Cummins
‘Cummo’ as he is affectionately called, is just 18 years old but has taken the world by storm. He was born on May 8, 1993 in Sydney. He made his debut for NSW in 2010-11 season and impressed instantly with some nerveless performances in the Big Bash, eventually ending as the highest wicket taker of the tournament, with 11 wickets at as low an economy rate as 6.59, which is superb for T-20s. Indian fans got to see more of him in the Champions League 2011 for New South Wales where like Starc, he too seemed to be promising.
His raw pace made him the youngest Aussie cricketer ever to earn a central Cricket Australia contract in mid-2011 and that permitted him to hop on to the plane to South Africa, where he made his T-20, ODI and Test debuts respectively. He performed reasonably well in the ODIs and T-20 but he caught the eyes of the cricketing globe in the Johannesburg Test match when he picked 6/79 in the second innings against South Africa with the wicket of Jacques Kallis reminding many of a breath taking spell the young Ishant Sharma bowled to Ricky Ponting at Perth. Cummins’ first Test wicket was that of Hashim Amla, not bad for an 18-year ‘rookie’ bowler!
The only problem with Cummins is his fitness and thus this is his best chance of making a name for himself in Australian colours, as he would only be required to bowl 24 balls in an innings at the most. But such is the diversity of the Australian squad that the oldest player is 41 and the youngest is 18!