Australia, West Indies lock horns with eye on World T20
Australia are back on home soil and West Indies have, mostly, arrived (Shimron Hetmyer missed his flight), as the teams enter the final stretch of their men’s T20 World Cup preparations. West Indies have to go through the qualifiers to reach the Super 12s, so these two matches are an important opportunity to get into gear.
However, it has been a very quick turnaround for the squad, especially those involved in the CPL final, who have had barely 24 hours in Australia. Whichever way you plug Guyana to Gold Coast into Google Flights – the last group came via New York and Dubai – it’s not an easy journey.
It is their first time in Australia for more than six years and, remarkably, they have won just one international in any format against Australia in Australia since 1997. That was, at least, in a T20I, back in 2013.
Hetmyer’s travel problems and subsequent axing from the squad has added to what was already a selection that had prompted significant debate amid the absence of Andre Russell and continued non-selection of Sunil Narine.
In their favour, however, they are coming off a sustained period of T20 cricket in the CPL and a number in the squad enjoyed an impressive tournament.
Australia, meanwhile, are looking to fine-tune their plans after the 2-1 series loss in India, which included some high-quality batting but in conditions that probably won’t have a huge bearing on this World Cup.
There are some niggling injuries around the squad, which threaten to become a bit more of an issue than may have first appeared. But with bubbles a thing of the past, Australia know they have the advantage of being hosts and can call up players easily if needed.
There are two names at the forefront of everyone’s mind at the moment: Cameron Green and Tim David. Green isn’t part of the World Cup 15 but showed what he was capable of in India, while David looks an ideal fit for the middle order but a tricky selection call could yet await.
In the spotlight
Mitchell Marsh was Player of the Match when Australia won the T20 World Cup title last year, but he has only played two T20Is since then through a combination of being rested and injury. He is coming into this short series after another of the latter, an ankle problem he picked up against Zimbabwe, but is still inked in at No. 3.
He has fully earned that right after what he achieved last year, but he’ll want to pick up that sort of form as quickly as possible and, with the looming presence of Green, get back to bowling fitness.
Brandon King is one of the West Indians arriving in Australia with excellent form under his belt, having finished top of the run-scoring chart in the CPL where his 83 off 50 balls in the final led Jamaica Tallawahs to the title. He has become a consistent performer at the top of the order this year with half-centuries against England, Bangladesh, India and New Zealand.
With Marcus Stoinis not part of the squad and Marsh playing as a batter only, Australia will probably need to find room for a fifth bowler, which moves away from their balance of the last World Cup. It may mean a chance for Green in the middle order, or Daniel Sams, who has more experience in that role. The knock-on to that would mean a frontline batter, maybe Steven Smith, sitting out.
Seven of West Indies’ squad were part of the CPL final and Pooran said they would take a call on the XI on match day based on how the players had pulled up from the journey. But some are going to have to play. Shamarh Brooks, who has replaced Hetmyer, won’t arrive for the Australia matches.
Aaron Finch: “It’s been a pretty hectic six or eight weeks with the ODI series straight into India. But it’s been good fun. I think we’re starting to learn a lot more about the squad and keep developing depth, all with one eye towards the World Cup.”
Nicholas Pooran: “We understand that we don’t have as much experience in the room. But we have been playing cricket together for the entire year so we do understand each other a little better now.” (ESPNcricinfo)
Australia squad for West Indies T20Is: Aaron Finch, Sean Abbott, Pat Cummins, Tim David, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Josh Inglis, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Daniel Sams, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Adam Zampa
West Indies squad: Nicholas Pooran (Captain), Rovman Powell (Vice-captain), Shamarh Brooks, Yannic Cariah, Johnson Charles, Sheldon Cottrell, Jason Holder, Akeal Hosein, Alzarri Joseph, Brandon King, Evin Lewis, Kyle Mayers, Obed Mccoy, Raymon Reifer, Odean Smith