Australia’s T20 World Cup is over and the post mortem has begun with a curious selection strategy and “flat” body language coming under the microscope.
Having won the title in the UAE last year, Australia didn’t make it out of the group back on home soil, paying a heavy price for its opening defeat to New Zealand.
Making the pill that bit harder to swallow is the fact that it was England that drove the final nail into Australia’s coffin by beating Sri Lanka on Saturday and securing its own passage into the semi final.
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Former Aussie quick Stuart Clark told the BBC’s Test Match Special that Australia “weren’t good enough” and flagged a major overhaul for the nation in 20-over cricket.
“There’s some guys who have been around for a while, and we have to start looking to some younger guys. Cameron Green is the only player under 29,” he said.
“I think this especially applies to the bowlers who play all three formats. The questions are going to be asked about what our team will look like for the next T20 World Cup, and I think half these guys won’t be there.”
So where did it all go wrong for Australia?
Australia was on the back foot early against New Zealand, conceding 3-200 before being rolled for 111 in what proved to be a fatal blow to the team’s net run rate.
Three games later against Ireland, Australia had the opportunity to cancel out the heavy defeat with an equally big win. But Australia was lacklustre in the final 10 overs as Ireland, having been 5-25, was allowed to get to within 42 runs of the hosts’ 5-179.
Michael Vaughan said that old Australian sides would’ve found a way to make a competitive total against New Zealand, and wouldn’t have taken the foot off the gas against Ireland.
“Australian sides of old certainly would’ve got 140, 150 against New Zealand and then would have blown Ireland away for 80 or 90 (runs),” Vaughan told Cricbuzz Live. “They would’ve been ruthless.
“That’s why I look at this group I don’t think they’re quite as ruthless as some of the old (Australian) teams.
“I don’t see that from this Australian team. I think they’re quite a nice team to play against.”
Speaking on the same show, Indian sports producer and former Kolkata Knight Riders team director Joy Bhattacharjya said Australia “lost its nerve” against New Zealand and lacked an edge it once had.
“I still feel like Australia was one of the strongest sides of the tournament, but two things let them down,” he said.
“One was when you are down 70-80 runs for seven, eight (wickets), all Australian teams would’ve taken it to 140 or 150. They wouldn’t have finished off 100 runs short.
“They capitulated. They were hit so hard and lost their nerve. That’s one thing they will think, ‘our situational awareness was poor’.
“The second thing, which I’ve been saying for the longest time; this is an Australia that doesn’t finish off teams. They didn’t finish off Ireland and let the tail wag, and wag. Afghanistan, look how close they took it. Rashid Khan nearly took the game away from them.
“Those two things they will look at and say, ‘could we finish these games off? Why aren’t we? That’s not the Australian way.”
Bhattacharjya also suggested that a change in culture since the departure of former coach Justin Langer in February could have a role to play.
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“I think somewhere there’s a little bit of steel they need. Things have changed,” he said.
“Justin Langer was a very different type of coach and I think you have a different kind of culture now with Andrew McDonald.
“Perhaps sometimes you feel they aren’t as clinical about finishing off teams as they used to be. I don’t think personnel is a problem, I think it’s still a very talented side.”
Australia had one last chance to boost its net run rate against Afghanistan on Friday, but barely walked away with the win.
Only 25 runs came from Australia’s final four overs with the bat, while Afghanistan was allowed to rally from 6-103 after 14.3 overs to 7-164 after 20.
Mark Waugh noted during the Afghanistan innings: “Geeze Australia’s body language looks flat.”
Fellow 1999 World Cup-winner Damien Fleming said the same in a column for The Roar.
“Just when Australia needed a big performance and a sizeable victory margin over Afghanistan, they were flatter than the batting surface at the Adelaide Oval,” he wrote. “And unfortunately that’s been the case the entire T20 World Cup for the defending champions.
“We needed a bit of AC-DC energy, some Highway to Hell action, but what was served up was more like Little River Band, mid tempo, nothing to get too excited about.”
A central point of discussion was the decision to leave out Mitchell Starc for Kane Richardson at the Adelaide Oval.
Australia needed to roll Afghanistan cheaply but left out Starc who has a trademark on taking wickets in his first over.
Starc dismissed Rory Burns first ball of the 21-22 Ashes, Brendon McCullum third ball of the 2015 World Cup final, while just last week he took 2-1 from his first over against Ireland.
But Australia went for Richardson instead, noting his death bowling ability as the main reason for the decision.
Richardson bowled the 18th over against Afghanistan and conceded 16 runs, while he went for 1-48 from his four overs.
Fleming wrote that it was a “bewildering decision” to leave out Starc, adding: “I thought he was the one who could have ripped open the Afghans’ top order.
“There was a bit of swing in the air and he could have exploited that. I know he went for a few runs after getting a couple of wickets early against Ireland but without him, the attack seemed to lack that X-factor that he brings.”
The selection call was so surprising that even Stuart Broad chimed in from the other side of the world, tweeting: “Why no Mitch Starc for Aus?”
Vaughan also couldn’t understand the baffling selection call.
“(Assistant coach) Daniel Vettori said it was about Kane Richardson’s death bowling but, wait a minute, if you need to blow Afghanistan away it’s not going to come down to death bowling, is it?” Vaughan said.
“It’s all about upfront bowling. So you need your best upfront bowlers. You need Mitchell Starc.”
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