Can anyone stop Australia? This has been a common question in the build-up to the ICC World Twenty20. The last three global events they have won, the 2003 and 2007 World Cups and the 2006 Champions Trophy, have been secured with barely a glitch. They are now strong favourites, if not quite of the runaway kind, for the Twenty20 despite not playing an international match since the World Cup final.
But this tournament offers a golden opportunity for another team to steal Australia’s thunder and show that not every piece of major silverware should have their name on it. That team clearly won’t be Zimbabwe, their opening opposition, but there are five or six sides with a realistic chance of toppling them if they don’t switch on. Domestic 20-over cricket has created unlikely winners as sides are pulled closer together.
Ricky Ponting has already admitted they need to sharpen up after their eight-wicket warm-up defeat against South Africa. At a time when players are crying out for more time off, it is Australia’s five-month break which leaves them most vulnerable to coming unstuck. Ponting himself only arrived in South Africa on Monday and missed both warm-up matches so will be coming in from the cold while Shane Watson, still a doubt with his hamstring injury, and Stuart Clark were late arrivals.
This is also the first time they have lined up since Glenn McGrath’s retirement so someone has to fill that huge hole. Brett Lee is back, after missing the World Cup, but bowling quick isn’t always the best route. Edges can fly to the boundary and high quality batsmen like to work with the extra pace.
While Twenty20 might appear a nice way to come out of winter hibernation, there is so little room for manoeuvre that the players will need to hit the ground running. Playing a Test, or even one-day international, allows players a period of time to settle and assess conditions, but in Twenty20 those decisions need to be instant. Although there is one ‘gimme’ against Zimbabwe, from then on it will be major nations all the way if they want to claim the trophy, with little time to gather their thoughts.
It would normally be unthinkable that Australia would be anything other than primed in a major tournament. Show them an international match and watch them turn on the style. National pride, and their built-in desire, will no doubt drive them throughout the tournament, there is still a feeling that they haven’t been completely swayed by Twenty20. Adam Gilchrist and Andrew Symonds have said they don’t want the fun to go out of the game, but if other countries start taking it seriously then Australia will have to follow.
So far they have enjoyed Twenty20 when it suits them. In the first international match Ponting smashed an unbeaten 98 - the highest individual total until Chris Gayle spectacularly eclipsed it at the Wanderers in the opening game - against a New Zealand side dressed in 70s retro gear and big afros. That was all fine and dandy, but when they came out on the wrong side of a 100-run thumping against England it was all quickly laughed off, however it was the start of a troubled tour.
Since then two large wins, against South Africa and England, and a narrow loss, also against South Africa, has left Australia with a 3-2 win/loss ratio from their five matches. A couple of defeats in this tournament will leave them vulnerable. Teams must realise that Twenty20 is still a new game to Australia, like everyone else, and they may not have all the answers. The teams that have had success against Australia in recent times have met them head-on with aggressive cricket and there is no choice but to attack in Twenty20.
After a largely uncompetitive World Cup the last thing the world game needs is another one-sided tournament. Australia have continued to raise the bar and no side has managed to maintain a challenge to their supremacy. It doesn’t say a great deal about the competition available if everyone else’s best chance of beating Australia is for them to be pulled back into the pack. Ideally other teams would be raising their game to a new level, too, and Australia have earned the right to be favourites. If they are crowned Twenty20 champions, let’s hope they have been pushed all the way.
Source:Cricket NewsMore on:Australia, Twenty20 World Cup
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Post InfoThis entry was posted on Wednesday, September 12th, 2007 and is filed under General, Cricket.
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