If Australia bombs out at October’s T20 World Cup in India, they might very well trace the defeat back to the five-match tour of New Zealand that concluded on Sunday as the Black Caps secured a series win after a seven-wicket win in Wellington.
With up to half-a-dozen first-choice players back playing domestic cricket back in Australia after the tour of South Africa was abandoned, this was billed as an opportunity to experiment, to build for India.
Instead, many of the same questions remain as Australia’s selectors opted to use just 12 of their 17 members on tour.
It may well be the case that those on the bench that weren’t called upon aren’t in the reckoning for the World Cup squad.
If that’s the case, so be it.
Watch Live Coverage of The 2020/21 Marsh Sheffield Shield on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >
But not for the first time, players batted in positions they didn’t bat in during the recent Big Bash tournament and, in addition, where they will unlikely bat when David Warner and Steve Smith return.
Case in point is Matthew Wade.
The dogged and gritty left-hander opened on four occasions and came in at first-drop in the final match of the series.
Yet, when Warner and Smith return it’s more than likely Wade will slide back down the order.
So unless he’s a bank to open — or either Josh Philippe or Alex Carey are in line to replace Wade — why not bat the keeper where they will feature in October?
After all, there’s only three more matches locked in before the tournament.
Aussies rack up 142 in T20 decider
Then there’s the three all-rounders — Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis and Mitchell Marsh — that will all but certainly feature in the squad and likely in the XI.
Stoinis opens for the Stars while Maxwell and Marsh regularly bat in the top four.
For Australia, only Maxwell regularly bats at four while Stoinis and Marsh float further down. There’s a completely different skill-set and mind-set to someone opening when the field is up compared to when it is spread and the spinners are coming into their own. Pushing twos and threes are an art form, which, has proved to be the case over time, isn’t a strength of Stoinis nor Marsh who play with hard hands.
On Sunday, Marsh, not for the first time this series, batted below Ashton Agar.
Agar struggled, and so did Marsh.
Aaron Finch attempted to make some sense of the situation after Sunday’s defeat.
“We knew that with Mitch Santner and Ish Sodhi both spinning the ball into the left-hander we wanted to be able to access both sides of the ground,” Finch said.
“That was a plan we went into the series with.
“With Matty Wade being at the top, we had no other left-hand options until Ash at seven. So we wanted to try and maximise that left-hand option against the two spinners spinning it into the left-hander, and then give Mitch some access to some pace towards the back end of the innings where he can be so destructive.”
Guptill masterclass rips out Aus hearts
On Wednesday night Shane Warne insisted that Australia could field two completely different T20 sides and they would give each other a run for their money.
“We’re in a good spot,” Warne reflected following Australia’s T20 win over New Zealand in the third match on Fox Cricket.
“It’s not an easy side to pick.
“You think down the track for that World Cup side, it’s not easy. Australia could play two teams and they’d probably beat each other. If they played a five-match series it would be a close contest.”
“All right, all right, don’t get ahead of yourselves,” Ish Guha quipped.
“We’re not getting ahead; just stating a fact, Ish,” Warne responded.
Four days later, Brad Haddin also said Australia was in a good position after Guha suggested there remained questions to be answered about the T20 side’s balance.
“I don’t think there’s much to sort out,” Haddin said on Fox Cricket following the seven-wicket loss to lose the series against New Zealand.
“You’ve got some class players coming into the team and you’ve got a squad of between 15 and 20 that will be the core of the squad for the World Cup – it’s just what style of game you would like to play. Does your keeper bat at the top of the order? You’ve got David Warner coming back in, so where do you use your keeper, does he bat at three or seven?
“Australia are in a good position.
“They’ve got some time in India with the T20, which will be really good and you’ve got a good squad now to pick from for a World Cup.”
Both Warne and Haddin are correct, Australia does have depth.
But many of the same questions, and they’re not as simplistic as simply stating where does the keeper bat, remain.
‘He’s onto the roof!’
HAVE AUSTRALIA’S SELECTORS BEEN FOOLED BY BIG BASH FORM?
Mitchell Marsh, like brother Shaun, has always divided opinion.
But if you listen to the pundits, he’s a shoe-in to feature in the XI for the Indian World Cup.
It’s easy to understand why.
He’s regularly one of the Big Bash’s stars and scores big runs.
In the recent season, he scored 315 runs at 39.37 and had a strike rate of 147.88.
They’re big numbers, especially for someone coming in the middle order.
Yet, his numbers don’t stack up for Australia at international level.
The right-hander averages just 21.66 and strikes at 116.07 over 20 innings, with a top score of 45.
The perception is that Marsh is an all-rounder.
Yet, he rarely bowls and hasn’t for more than a year.
Aussies’ flaky batting and strange tactics exposed as Kiwis deny fairy tale comeback
The ONE discovery Australia’s selectors found during Kiwi tour
Only two eights and SIX fails as big guns go missing: Player ratings
So are those numbers good enough to earn selection purely as a batsman?
Marsh and Stoinis are similar batsmen. They’re big hitters but struggle to work the ball. Against the spinners, they either hit out or get out.
So does Australia have it wrong?
The likes of Jordan Silk, Dan Christian, Joe Burns and Marcus Labuschagne all work the ball around and play spin well.
In India, that will be essential.
Epic partnership falls agonisingly short
DID SLAMMING SAMS DESERVE TO BE DROPPED?
Spare a thought for Daniel Sams.
When Australia looked down and out, the powerful bowling all-rounder nearly won the second match of the series along with Marcus Stoinis.
The right-hander, who showed his improvement with the willow during the Big Bash, bludgeoned 41 runs off 15 balls.
But after going for some tap in his last eight balls, where he bowled the last over and went for 20 runs, Sams was dropped.
He didn’t play another match.
During the next three matches Guha expressed her surprise that Sams had been dropped.
Pundits Mark Waugh, Warne and Haddin said it was likely that the left-arm quick wasn’t a front-line bowler who could open.
They added he needed to rediscover his lost swing.
Guptill GONE in first over
Yet, Sams took two wickets in the first match in Christchurch and almost won the second match with his bat.
“I think that if you have a look at the team you’ve got Maxwell, Stoinis and Marsh who are all batting all-rounders, so I think the one thing Sams does offer is he offers some power hitting, but he’s a bowling all-rounder,” Haddin reflected on Fox Cricket.
“You wouldn’t use him too much up front with the new ball, but he bowls really well with change-ups in the middle and the back-end of games.
“He gives you a point of difference and that’s what you need in a World Cup squad as well.
“You’ve got to make a decision at the venues you play whether you play a batting all-rounder or the bowling all-rounder. His name will come to be a squad player and he can play a role if needed.”
Get all the latest cricket news, highlights and analysis delivered straight to your inbox with Fox Sports Sportmail. Sign up now!!!