Australia, a powerhouse right from the earliest memoirs of the gentleman’s game, have been hailed as one of the most balanced sides in the world throughout. Some of the greatest cricketers have graced the sport on behalf of the five-time World Cup winners.
However, present-day Australia, least to speak in the limited-overs, have relied heavily on their skipper Aaron Finch alongside the ever-present pioneers in David Warner and Steve Smith. More often than not, it is one or two of these who plays a monster knock for Australia to get over the line.
It was not quite the same overdependent scenario back in the 2000s when the likes of Andrew Symonds and Michael Bevan held the courses together at the death with their willows.
Honestly though, one may not be able to fathom the last time when the Men in Yellow lost their top order and still went on to fancy their chances at winning. An indication of the muddle was as clear as water stroked by a beam of sunlight during the recently concluded India-Australia series.
Going back to the final ODI, despite a gritty, well-controlled knock of 131 from Smith, no one from the middle order supported the talisman. That was a case of trying to achieve a par total on a flat, pancake-like Bangalore track, while in the second ODI, the same failure was on the brim when the Aussies were chasing a mammoth 341. Alas, batsmen from five to seven in the order averaged a paltry 15.83 in the bilateral tussle.
On that note, we analyse the chances of a few finishers who have been viable contenders for Australia in recent years:
1. Ashton Turner
Ashton Turner has been in a dark patch of late, owing to recurring injuries, illness and sheer issues with form. In 21 matches across three formats in international and domestic cricket this summer, the middle-order batsman managed just one half-century in 19 innings. The match-winning 84 against India in early 2019 seems like a long time ago now.
Ahead of a return to the Perth Scorchers following an abysmal series in India, Turner vowed to improve and reflect on his last 15 months. The 26-year-old has only managed 86 runs in seven innings for Perth Scorchers this season, having been forced to jump across formats repeatedly. Even then, a strike rate of 104.88 in Australia’s premier T20 competition makes for grim reading.
He has a long way to go, but should he fail to impress at South Africa later in February if he’s picked in the squad, Turner may be pushed out of the scheme of things as far as Australia’s options are concerned.
Probability of being picked – 5.5/10
2. Glenn Maxwell
The ‘Big Show’, as they call him, has never really cemented his place in the national squad since emerging as a conspicuous talent in 2013. Maxwell endured mental health problems at the start of the decade but came back stronger than ever in the Big Bash League
Captaining Melbourne Stars until he departed for personal reasons, the dashing all-rounder amassed 372 runs in 12 innings, a tally bolstered by a strike rate close to 156 – courtesy of 20 maximums.
Not to mention, unlike some of the other possibilities, Maxwell is also more than just a part-time bowler. The off-spinner has scalped seven wickets in the BBL thus far at a brilliant economy of 6.81. One simply cannot keep him out of action for too long, for he has game-changing abilities like none other in the game.
Probability of being picked – 8/10
3. Ashton Agar
Agar may have been highly disciplined with the ball in the domestic circuit as well as in the ODIs a week back, but here, the cause for concern was sprung by the middle-order failures with the bat. The southpaw can hit a long ball, but is far from the batsman who can invoke fear in the opposition ranks.
In the 60 deliveries he has faced in the BBL this term, the 26-year-old has only mustered 49 runs. He owns a pretty orthodox stature at the crease, but mainly, the selection committee opted in his favour due to the demand for slower bowlers in the sub-continent. However, the quick-fire blitz needed from batsmen in his specific role isn’t quite present in Agar. He has looked extremely rusty thus far in the BBL.
Through the aforementioned discussions, Adam Zampa’s ever-present leggies in the squad and the need of an extra fast bowler or a finisher, a World Cup spot may well be far-fetched for Ashton Agar.
Probability of being picked – 3/10
4. Marcus Stoinis
Heralded as one of the most dangerous batters in the Australian cricketing discourse, Marcus Stoinis has replied to an axing from the senior team with a truly remarkable Big Bash campaign. Sitting right at the top of the leading run scorers’ charts with a whopping 607 runs at 60.7 of them per innings on average, the Perth-born all-rounder is a serious challenger for the player of the season accolade.
He is another one of those who hasn’t become a mainstay in the setup, but Stoinis is a powerful hitter, impeccable accelerator and a key man to have while chasing as well. Predominantly used at number 6 or 7 for Australia, he is also a handy option with the ball, especially at the death when the cutters and yorkers are of optimum need.
One may argue his T20I record of 136 at an average of just over 15 may not be enough for the management to give him the nod, but Stoinis is a complete package who needs that one innings at perhaps, number 4 or 5, from where he can absolutely launch what is highly capable of being a fantastic limited-overs career.
Probability of being picked – 7/10
5. D’Arcy Short
Short, a seasoned campaigner in this format at the middle order, should be a more readymade product should one look at aspects such as fitting in a left-hander or a big hitter. The 29-year-old is more than just a bloke who is powerful on the leg side.
He owns impeccable ability to play long innings, accustoming himself to the match situation and taking on bowlers at the right time. He was included in the squad that travelled to India but didn’t get a game. His off-breaks are more than handy as well, as portrayed through his magnificent spell of 5-21 against the Thunder Nation.
Short could be used as a cover or even as a genuine all-rounder in the Australian squad, owing to his ability to coin the result of the match single-handedly. A flourish in the BBL along with another impressive domestic season could see him drafted into the main team.
Probability of being picked – 6/10
6. Ben McDermott
Ben McDermott, arguably the most inexperienced player in this bunch, brings a unique differential to the list. While the others have their own credentials, this young man owns the capabilities of striking huge sixes at will.
He’s scored 252 runs so far in the BBL, but boy, they have been valuable additions to the scorecard. Take for instance the fixture against reigning champions Renegades, to take the Hurricanes from a par 165-170 to a more daunting total, the youngster took the attack to the opposition and finished with 38* off 19; a knock glittered with three sixes.
More so, McDermott possesses a variety of ways of protracting the boundaries and even clearing them with aplomb. He is definitely then, what one would label as a modern-day ‘finisher.’ But, chances may not come his way considering the fierce competition for spots and his brief record for Australia that reads an average of 14 from 10 T20I innings.
Probability of being picked – 3/10
7. Travis Head
Nobody really knows why Travis Head was pushed out of the limited-overs squads for Australia, having initially put himself on the map through his T20 performances. Nobody knows why the talented left-hander, full of poise and control in the middle, went from a one-day cricketer to a Test cricketer in the space of six months.
The explosive middle-order batsman has 10 half-centuries and a ton to his name in ODIs, at an aggregate of 34.4. His T20I record isn’t all too bad either, as Head has mustered just over 300 runs from his 15 innings at a par strike rate of 130.2. Unfortunately, he was a victim of the slew of changes the Australian management set out to make after the sandpapergate when they tried and tested many to conclude on their most balanced line-up.
Not much can be done now, unless a spark of magic in Test cricket, where Head scores runs at a quicker rate with a wider array of strokes, comes into the picture. It may just work out for Head in the future, but don’t count on the same to unfold within seven months.
Probability of being picked – 1/10
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