World Twenty20: Steve Smith's Australia out to defy history and go for the kill
The scenario of landing a maiden World Twenty20 trophy could not have come at a better time for Steve Smith led Australia, especially when they are ruling the globe as the numero uno team in both Test cricket and ODIs.
The versatile star-studded Australian team means business in a crucial tough group as they battle for glory. Rightly so, the world champions under the talismatic Smith, would want their hands on the coveted trophy, something that has eluded them in the previous five editions.
After having played two matches in Dharamsala and Bengaluru respectively, the Aussies opened their account against Bangladesh on Monday. They lost the previous encounter against New Zealand. Nonetheless it was also a match they should have won as they lost from a winning position.
Australia's next two matches in Super 10 Group 2 are against Pakistan and India. These two matches will test Australia to the fullest and they are also must-win matches for the side.
Smith has been a revelation for Australia and in him they have found a perfect leader and a middle order batsman who has grown in stature at every aspect of his game. Smith has acknowledged that his side needs to adapt well in order to get into the semi-finals.
Smith knows the Indian conditions will be tough, given the different venues, but they have the personnel to shake up the competition. Aussies have a fancied batting line-up, coupled with potential match-winning all-rounders at their disposal.
But their middle-order has struggled of sorts and need to better their game.
The Indian Premier League has played a big role in shaping most of the Australian stars, who aren't strangers in these conditions. The 2016 IPL auctions showed why the franchises love and respect Australians, with 13 players being bought on February 6, ahead of this year's campaign.
Smith has a team that has won nearly everything, and their desire of giving their all in every format of the game, boasts of a side who can challenge top opponents in the mega tourney. But the loss against New Zealand has hurt the side.
Australia will have to come on top in their fight against Asian giants next. Beating both teams will not be an easy affair, but with this Australian side, nothing seems impossible.
Smith's side were humbled by India recently in the T20Is in Australia and although after that the side came back strongly to beat South Africa 2-1 in a three-match series this month. The victory will surely boost the morale of the Australian team.
Aussies will want to apply themselves well and learn from that series in order to control the proceedings in the sub-continent conditions.
Australia's problems against spin bowling and getting momentum in middle overs is an issue that needs to be addressed. That's where the experience of senior players in the side will come into play and they will need to dictate slow bowlers according to merit. It is a challenge for Steve Smith's side in this department and it's an area they will hope to cover well against both Pakistan and India.
Another area in the Australian side that lacks a bit of shine is the spin department. With Nathan Lyon being overlooked, the responsibility is in the shoulders of young pair of Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar. Zampa excelled for the Aussies against Bangladesh and his role becomes very crucial in the remaining Group 2 matches.
Leg spinners have done well in India and that's what Zampa did against the Tigers. He pitched the ball in right areas and was awarded. Glenn Maxwell, who has been handy for the side in rolling his arm, has played enough cricket in this nation with the IPL to know what is needed. He will have to help Zampa in getting the desired confidence and impress thereafter.
Besides this, the presence of Shane Watson in the side is a big plus for Australia, especially with all the experience he bears in Indian conditions. His consistency has been a key feature in the shortest format and with majority of boxes ticked, Watson knows the biggest test awaits against both India and Pakistan.
Watson's attributes is key for Australia who are rich in their bag of all-rounders. The 34-year-old has got off to starts and needs to convert them.
Watson is opening the batting for Australia which is good to see. Also in the bowling, there has been an increase in pace by Watson and his fitness looks to the fullest. His bowling is bearing an added importance.
In Usman Khawaja, the Aussie team has found a solid asset. In both the games so far, Usman has middled the ball well and looks like a player who is enjoying a rich form and is consistent. The confidence ushered by the skipper in Khawaja has been a positive factor and he has repaid that with great purpose.
The left-hander has been a perfect example of somebody who is enjoying fearless cricket amidst some rich form.
Australia's bowling has been a positive aspect and pacer Nathan Coulter-Nile has been handed with the responsibility of stepping up to show he can be the leader in absence of Mitchell Starc. The other all-rounders have contributed too so far with Watson leading the charge.
The likes of John Hastings, Mitchell Marsh and James Faulkner need to step up further in the must-win scenario against Asiam giants.
Australia are clubbed with India, New Zealand, West Indies, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Australia squad for World Cup T20: Steve Smith (capt), David Warner, Ashton Agar, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Aaron Finch, John Hastings, Josh Hazlewood, James Faulkner, Usman Khawaja, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Peter Nevill (wk), Andrew Tye, Shane Watson, Adam Zampa