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Ten World Cup spots up for grabs in Big Bash League

The Roar The Roar 16/12/2015 Ronan O'Connell

Australia’s squad for the World Twenty20 in March is wide open with about 10 spots up for grabs, adding serious intrigue to the Big Bash League when it starts tomorrow. © Gareth Copley/Getty Images Australia’s squad for the World Twenty20 in March is wide open with about 10 spots up for grabs, adding serious intrigue to the Big Bash League when it starts tomorrow. Australia’s squad for the World Twenty20 in March is wide open with about 10 spots up for grabs, adding serious intrigue to the Big Bash League when it starts tomorrow.

Just three months out from Australia’s World Cup opener, against New Zealand in Dharamsala, only five players are locks for the tournament, if fit – captain Aaron Finch, Test lynchpins David Warner and Steve Smith, and short-form stars James Faulkner and Glenn Maxwell.

The likes of Shane Watson, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Mitchell Marsh and Matthew Wade all are very strong chances of making the expected 15-man squad for the tournament in India.

None of them are automatic selections though and there is a big group of state players who easily could leapfrog them by excelling in this BBL.

Australia have never taken the T20 format as seriously as Tests or ODIs. This is evident in the fact that their T20 line-up has always been unpredictable – they have churned through a huge number of players, using the format as a way to blood rookies they feel may be prospects for Tests or ODIs.

While they had a bonanza of T20 cricket in 2014, playing 14 matches, Australia have had just one T20 outing in the past 13 months.

Of the 11 who turned out in Australia’s last T20, a five-run loss to England in August, only five of them had played in Australia’s previous T20 match. This constant turnover of players must have made it difficult for the Australians to form any bond in the shortest format and may help explain why, since the start of 2013, they have a poor 10-10 win-loss record.

This was Australia’s 15-man squad from the last World T20 in 2014:

George Bailey (capt), Daniel Christian, Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, Brad Haddin, Brad Hodge, Brad Hogg, Glenn Maxwell, James Muirhead, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, David Warner, Shane Watson and Cameron White.

It seems likely they again will choose a squad composed of five specialist batsmen, three batting all-rounders, one wicketkeeper, four pacemen and two spinners.

Australia’s batting line-up is the easiest part of the team to predict with Finch, Warner, Smith and Maxwell set to make up four of their top six in the World Cup. That means there is one specialist batting berth open in Australia’s squad, along with two batting all-rounder positions.

Watson is a leading contender to join the top six, being Australia’s second-most capped T20 international after Warner, and having vast experience in Indian conditions thanks to many seasons in the Indian Premier League.

But where Watson was, for several years, arguably the best T20 player on the planet, his impact has waned significantly over the past three years. In that period, he has averaged just 15 with the bat and 69 with the ball across 13 T20 internationals.

At just 34, Watson could yet revive his international limited overs career. But he will need to have a standout BBL if he is to make the World Cup squad ahead of the likes of younger all-rounders Mitchell Marsh, Moises Henriques and Marcus Stoinis.

Marsh has enjoyed a solid run in both the Test and ODI teams, but has played only four T20s for Australia. He was, however, in the line-up for their last match in England when he formed part of a top six that included four all-rounders in him, Stoinis, Watson, and Maxwell.

Henriques is coming off a fine 2014-15 Big Bash League during which he bowled economically, conceding just 6.4 runs per over, and was one of the leading runscorers with 245 runs at 35.

The fifth specialist batting position in the squad looks hard to forecast. It could be filled by any of the likes of slashing young left-hander Nic Maddinson, veteran Shaun Marsh, long-hitting Queenslander Chris Lynn or prolific old-stager Michael Klinger.

Then there are the likes of Peter Handscomb, Jordan Silk and Travis Head, any of whom could vault themselves over to India with a stunning BBL campaign.

One player who could potentially be competing for both a specialist batting role and the wicketkeeping spot is Tasmanian Ben Dunk. He kept wicket in three T20s against South Africa last summer and has been in commanding touch with the blade so far this domestic season.

After piling up 300 runs at 60 in the domestic 50-over competition, Dunk has plundered 595 runs at 66 in the Sheffield Shield. His main competition for the Australian keeping spot will be Victorian Matthew Wade, who was behind the stumps in their last T20 international.

The bowling spots, in particular, are wide open in Australia’s squad due to injuries to leading T20 pacemen Starc and Pat Cummins, and the lack of a dominant spinner.

In the last T20 World Cup, Australia took gambles on both youth and extreme experience in selecting their two spinners. Leg-spinner James Muirhead was just 20, while chinaman Brad Hogg was a ripe old 43.

After performing admirably in that tournament, Muirhead since has fallen back in the spin pecking order. Hogg, too, has not been seen in Australia colours since that World Cup and looks unlikely to make yet another international comeback. Muirhead and Hogg likely are competing for one BBL spot in the Perth Scorchers’ starting XI.

Queensland leggie Cameron Boyce is the incumbent spinner in the Australian T20 line-up and has been effective in his five matches.

Australia’s first-choice ODI spinner Xavier Doherty hasn’t played a Twenty20 since October of 2013 but will be the leading spinner for the Melbourne Renegades. Doherty is a realistic chance of making the World Cup squad along with leggie Fawad Ahmed, Test off-spinner Nathan Lyon, bowling all-rounder Ashton Agar and wrist spinner Adam Zampa.

The fast bowling spots for Australia’s World Cup squad are an absolute raffle at this stage. There are probably up to 10 quicks who have some sort of hope of making the cut. The favourites would be Coulter-Nile, Jason Behrendorff, Gurinder Sandhu, James Pattinson and Josh Hazlewood.

Leading contenders to make Australia’s T20 World Cup

Specialist batsmen – Shaun Marsh, Nic Maddinson, Chris Lynn, Jordan Silk, Travis Head, Peter Handscomb and Michael Klinger.

All-rounders – Mitchell Marsh, Shane Watson, Marcus Stoinis and Moises Henriques.

Wicketkeepers – Matthew Wade, Ben Dunk and Tim Ludeman.

Spinners – Cameron Boyce, Xavier Doherty, Nathan Lyon, Fawad Ahmed, Ashton Agar and Adam Zampa.

Fast bowlers – Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Pattinson, Jason Behrendorff, John Hastings, Kane Richardson, Gurinder Sandhu, Josh Hazlewood and Jackson Bird.


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