By Wisden India staff in Mirpur
Australian captain says his side is more versatile and powerful than earlier; points at momentum and consistency as crucial in World T20
It will be confronted by diametrically contrasting conditions at the ICC World Twenty20 2014, with the pitches not offering the batsmen, or bowlers, too much pace to work with. As fearsome as the batting line-up is, how well the batsmen make the change to countering the turning ball - of which they will encounter plenty in their Group 2 opener against Pakistan at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium on Sunday (March 23) afternoon - will be crucial.
“Spin plays a huge role in T20 cricket, wherever it’s played in the world. It tends to go one of two ways but certainly in these conditions, it tends to be match-winning,” said George Bailey, the Australian captain. “It’s a challenge. We know we are going to face lots of spin, we know we are probably going to bowl a lot of spin. Your approach is to play as well as you can. We have seen most of Pakistan’s spinners now over a period of years or most guys have seen them at different times. They have got three spinners (Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi and Mohammad Hafeez) in the top 10 in T20 cricket, they are a very, very strong spinning side and the conditions can be challenging for us over here but we have certainly got a strong batting line-up at the moment that hopefully can overcome them.
“We went through the Pakistan team in our team meeting last night and there’s so many match-winners. Historically, the guys we have struggled against while playing Pakistan is their spinners. If we are going to win the game, we have to play really well against the spinners.”
Australia’s players watched India’s defeat of Pakistan on Wednesday closely, Bailey revealed. “Most of the guys watched it in the hotel last night. It was a great chance to see both India and Pakistan play, see how the wicket plays and see the conditions under lights. There was a lot of information to be gathered and most guys took that opportunity.”
Bailey did sound a strong warning, saying this Australian side was stronger than the one that reached the semifinal of the last ICC World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka 18 months back. “We have got more versatility just in terms of what we can do with the ball probably,” he remarked. “And we are a little bit more powerful with the bat, we bat a little deeper. The shorter the format, the closer it brings two teams, the more it comes down to one incident – it can be one catch, might be one over, might be one wicket that’s taken. There’s a whole different range of ways that a game can be won and lost in T20s, and it can happen quickly. Every team, when it plays its best, is going to win its game. Every team that plays at its worst is going to lose. The challenge is to make sure that the gap is not too big. It is going to be very hard to play your best game every game but the team that’s most consistent is going to win more often than not and that’s what we are after --- that consistency.”
Pakistan finds itself in a must-win situation after losing its opening game, but Bailey dispelled suggestions that that gave his side any edge. “I don’t think we have any advantage. If anything, they have probably got the advantage in terms of having played here, got used to the conditions,” he noted. “We haven’t played at this ground yet, it is going to be fresh for us. We have to adjust pretty quickly.
“It’s always nice to start with a win. In a tournament like this, momentum is really important. Starting with a win gets you off and running and without being great at maths, I don’t think you can drop that many games. You can only lose one or two to not get through. The more wins the better, there is no doubt about that.”
Teams have often stressed on momentum, but whether it is possible to have momentum in a format like T20, where things change in a flash, has been open to conjecture. “I think the team that wins will have it (momentum),” Bailey said. “Going back to the last World Cup, the West Indies (who won the title) had momentum. It really comes down to two stages. You have got to play some good, consistent cricket to get to the knockout stages, and then you hope that you have carried some momentum there, that you are playing some good cricket and have that little bit of luck. I am really happy with our warm-up games, our lead-up games. Having said that, I don’t think they count for anything. Once you start the tournament proper, you are at square one. It’s the beginning of the tournament and you got to play well from there.”
Australia will be without James Faulkner, the allrounder, for the opening match. Faulkner, nursing a knee injury, did not play in South Africa either, though the Australian think-thank is confident he will be available during the later stages of the tournament. “He will miss tomorrow’s game, but we are hoping he will have a big impact later on. He is pretty handy in T20. He has certainly played a huge role for the Australian side in the T20 and ODI teams since his debut, which doesn’t seem all that long ago,” said Bailey. “He is a really important player, he is versatile. He adds another dimension to our team. We will just monitor his progress. The way he plays, he will become more and more important as the tournament progresses, as the wickets start to slow up a little bit.”