Irked ... captain George Bailey has ambitions. Photo: Getty Images
REMARKABLY, underachieving Australia could vault from a world ranking of seventh to within a fraction of top spot in the next three weeks and George Bailey, the captain in the shortest format, admits it ''irks'' him that they are not already near the summit of the Twenty20 game.
Australia take on top-ranked Sri Lanka at ANZ Stadium on Saturday before an Australia Day crowd tipped to exceed 45,000. They meet again in Melbourne next week, before a one-off match against West Indies in Brisbane on February 13.
If Australia - presently ranked above only New Zealand, Bangladesh, Ireland and Zimbabwe - and the Black Caps knock off England in two games at home early next month, India would be the new leading team in the T20 format, with Bailey's side less than a rating point behind in second place.
Should England beat New Zealand they would be No.1, with India second and Australia third. That depends on Australia winning all three of its upcoming T20 matches. Should they drop all three they could slump to an embarrassing eighth in the world.
If anything the permeations show the frivolous nature of limited-overs rankings, coming days after Australia were elevated to third on the one-day list despite an uninspiring 2-2 series draw against Sri Lanka.
But Bailey insists Australia must improve in the shortest form, where they made an exit at the semi-finals stage of the World T20 tournament in Sri Lanka last October.
''Certainly I think we are underachieving in T20 cricket more so than in any of the other formats,'' Bailey said. ''There's no reason why with the players we have and the depth we have we shouldn't have a side that are consistently in the top couple of teams in the world. That's something that still irks me.''
Australia's team at Sydney Olympic Park on Saturday night showcases some of the leading performers in the T20 Big Bash League. Shaun Marsh, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch and Ben Cutting all rewarded after great performances in the city-based competition on either side of Christmas. Meanwhile, David Hussey's future as an international player appears bleak after he was dumped from an Australian squad for the second time this week. The 35-year-old lost his place in Australia's 13-man squad to Victorian teammate Finch for the first two matches of the one-day international series against the West Indies in Perth.The dumping on Friday was a bitter blow for Hussey, who had hoped to replace his brother Michael in the Test side for the tour of India.
Australia T20 squad: George Bailey (c), Ben Cutting, Xavier Doherty, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, Ben Laughlin, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Starc, Adam Voges, Matthew Wade, David Warner. Sri Lanka T20 squad: Angelo Mathews (c), Mahela Jayawardene, Dinesh Chandimal, Akila Dananjaya, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Shaminda Eranga, Rangana Herath, Nuwan Kulasekara, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga, Ajantha Mendis, Jeevan Mendis, Kushal Janith Perera, Thisara Perera, Upul Tharanga, Lahiru Thirimanne.