Just under a year remains until the 2020 T20 World Cup gets under way in Australia, with the 12 top teams set to battle it out for the grand prize Down Under.
The premier international sides have already shifted their focus to the shortest format of the game with the next 12 months set to afford them ample time to get their T20 combinations right.
As we take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the major contenders for the 2020 tournament, it is time to cast a glance at the hosts themselves. Click here to read about the other leading contenders for the tournament.
The Aussies might be the undisputed kings of the ODI World Cup with a record five titles to their name, but that same success has not been translated when it comes to the shortest format.
Only once have Australia been able to advance to the final of the competition, but they were upstaged emphatically by bitter rivals England in the 2010 edition in the Caribbean.
However, as hosts of the competition, Aaron Finch and his men will be determined to put their best foot forward yet, as they seek to capture the one trophy which has continued to elude them so far.
Their T20 fortunes have started to swing of late with the Men in Yellow now unbeaten in the format all year after victories against India, Sri Lanka and most lately, Pakistan. They have now catapulted themselves to second spot in the ICC Rankings and just a solitary point separates them from leaders Pakistan.
Experienced stalwarts will be Australia’s biggest trump card in the competition, with the selectors ringing in the changes to the T20 squad a year ahead of the World Cup. Back into the T2o fold are Steve Smith and David Warner, who bring plenty of experience and runs on the table with them.
Warner’s T20 prowess is all too well known while Smith, who isn’t the biggest of hitters, is the perfect man to bring stability to the batting unit with his ability to hold anchor. Add the mercurial but extremely talented Glenn Maxwell into the mix and Australia’s line up has all the makings of a world-beating side.
The pace battery is a formidable one with Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Billy Stanlake, Andrew Tye and Kane Richardson being one of the most exciting units built in recent times.
Also, home advantage cannot be discounted given what the men in yellow achieved the last time a World Cup was held on Australian soil (2015 50-over edition).
While they have brought in the experienced men to help aid their World Cup campaign, it is a highly rejigged squad which has not played much together. Smith recently made his first T20I appearance in over three years while Warner too, has returned after a prolonged absence. The early signs, however, are extremely good with both stalwarts looking in fine fettle.
The likes of Chris Lynn, Marcus Stoinis and D’Arcy Short were regulars in the side for the past year or so but they have been all shown the door in the latest rejig.
While Adam Zampa can be a handy T20 spinner, Ashton Agar is yet to be tested extensively at the international level. More games under the belt are needed for the their new-look spin department with slower bowlers becoming all too crucial in the shortest format in recent years.
What they need to do in the next 12 months
The biggest priority for the Aussies will be to generate some consistency in their T20 showings with the side blowing hot and cold, far too often in the format prior to their recent period of consistency. Given that the unit is a newly assembled one, they will desperately hope that the current squad can do the business in the coming months and for that, they will need to assign well defined roles for each player.
What they don’t want is for the latest experiment to fail just months ahead of the competition. That could potentially leave them with a scenario where they need to make major changes to the squad with no time for the new players to gel together as a unit.
Key clashes going forward
The Aussies have put together a strong schedule to bolster their title hopes, with the team set to take on most of the major contenders in the coming year. Their preparation has already started in earnest with a 5-0 overall home whitewash over Sri Lanka and No1 ranked Pakistan. Up ahead, they embark on tours of South Africa, New Zealand and arch-rivals England.
While these clashes should really show them where they stand, the Big Bash League (BBL) which begins at the end of the current year will also provide their star players with another springboard.
Key man – David Warner
His recent Ashes showings might have looked almost amateurish, but make no mistake: David Warner is as effective an opener as they come in the limited-overs formats. He was in his elements in the home clashes against Sri Lanka and Pakistan where he was dismissed just once across six innings.
The left-hander was also in superb flow in the 2019 World Cup in England where he scored 647 runs at an average greater than 71, with only India’s Rohit Sharma trumping his individual displays.
His T20 prowess was on show in the 2019 edition of the Indian Premier League too where he finished as the leading run-scorer by a country mile after stacking up 692 runs in just 12 innings for Sunrisers Hyderabad.
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