For all of Australia’s rich cricketing history, the one thing that continues to escape the Aussies is a men’s T20 World Cup victory. But heading into the 2021 edition of the tournament they have a number of established stars, a host of domestic talent knocking on the door, and will benefit from the raft of players who will hone their skills at the IPL in the lead-up. With all that in mind, could this be their year?
The Aussies have struggled here in the past
In six attempts, the Australians have reached the final of the T20 World Cup on just one occasion, going down to England in the West Indies in 2010.
Since the first T20 World Cup in 2006, Australia have a respectable win-loss record of 16-13, but that’s hardly enough to see you getting to the business end of the tournament too often. The Australians have failed to convert their Test and ODI dominance to the shortest form of the game, perhaps a result of a lack of depth which has seen too much left to too few for many years.
The same big names
Alarmingly, it’s the same names that continue to pop up in the individual player ratings. Aaron Finch sits second in the ICC T20 batting rankings, 58 behind Englishman Dawid Malan, while Glenn Maxwell is ranked eighth. It feels like we’ve been talking about these two for an eternity in the T20 game and while they are out-and-out superstars, Australia needs more than Finch and Maxwell to win their first T20 World Cup. There are, however, a few names who could make a big impact this year.
Spinners Ashton Agar and Adam Zampa are two such names, and both of them have the potential to make a significant impact on what are expected to be low and slow wickets in the UAE and Oman. Agar is currently ranked the third best bowler in the world while Zampa is back in eighth, and with Maxwell’s ability to hustle through some early overs with his finger spin, Australia’s best chance of success at the World Cup is their slow bowlers.
It will be much the same for their competitors but few teams come into the Cup with three front-line spinners who can take a game away from you before it really even gets going. Throw in the likes of Steve Smith and Pat Cummins and it’s easy to see why Australia is one of the favourites for the ICC T20 World Cup.
The next tier of talent
Australian assistant coach Andrew McDonald recently confirmed that the team would not be resting all-format players in favour of preparing for the Ashes series which means Smith, Cummins, David Warner, Mitch Starc and Josh Hazlewood will all be on deck for the green and gold in the UAE and Oman. But are there a few lesser-known stars who could have an impact?
There are a number of domestic-level players who shone in the Big Bash - which began a few months after sport restarted across the country — perhaps most notably the Sydney Sixers’ Josh Philippe. The Perth-born wicketkeeper-batsman was consistently good for the Sixers as the men in magenta claimed another crown. He finished the tournament with 508 runs, a number eclipsed by only Englishmen Alex Hales and James Vince, and was rewarded with his international debut soon after as a result.
And with several of Australia’s top-line quicks unavailable for the Big Bash, plenty of bowlers took their chance to step up too. Jhye Richardson, who has represented Australia in 14 T20s, finished with 29 wickets for the tournament, beating out Ben Dwarshuis and Mark Steketee on 24 wickets. He is another who could easily slot into the bowling attack and make an impact in the UAE and Oman.
The IPL — an ideal warm-up
This will be the perfect warm-up for Australia’s stars before the World Cup in a country expected to offer up similar pitches, giving many a chance to acclimatise to the unique conditions. Apart from the usual suspects, Richardson will be there alongside young Hobart Hurricanes firebrand Riley Meredith, but unfortunately, Philippe has pulled himself out due to personal reasons after he was set to play for Bangalore.
Following the IPL, the Australians are set to head to the West Indies in June for what will be their final competitive hitout prior to the World Cup in the Middle East. The T20 World Cup itself will then run through October and November, culminating with the final on the 14th
The tournament was originally scheduled to take place on our home shores in late 2020, something which would have given the Aussies an added advantage, but there were only a handful of events which actually went ahead during that time.
But while Australia now has to deal with foreign conditions, and though question marks remain over the side’s middle order, any batting line-up that boasts Warner, Finch, Smith and Maxwell should go deep into a tournament. Agar can also bat and do a job with the ball while Marcus Stoinis is a potential x-factor.
The team is far from perfect, but there is plenty of talent in the Australian ranks, and with a lead-in which should see them accustomed to conditions by the time the tournament starts, an inaugural T20 World Cup trophy is well and truly in the picture.