Sport

Where does Steve Smith fit in Australian T20 team?

The Australian squad for the World Twenty20 in India will be announced on February 11 and picking it will be a nightmare for our selectors. Their first job is to select our best XI. Their next role is to select the remaining four players to cover for any injury or funny pitch that may pop up throughout the tour.

Selectors will pick Aaron Finch as captain and they will select Usman Khawaja. So now the difficult decisions. Do you open the batting with David Warner and Finch? Khawaja has excelled as an opener. Does he bat at three, knowing that Shane Watson has an impeccable batting record in the Indian Premier League batting in the top three.

Steve Smith.
Steve Smith.  Photo: Daniel Kalisz

In Big Bash League powerplays this summer, Khawaja scored 164 runs from 88 balls and his strike rate was better than that of Chris Gayle and the red-hot Chris Lynn. I feel Khawaja will lose his presence if he bats at four – and that spot probably will go to Steve Smith, who plays spin better. But where is Smith's best spot in the line-up and is he in our best T20 team?

If Smith plays, Lynn is likely to miss out. Lynn was the top scorer in BBL05 with 378 runs at a strike rate of 173, with one hundred and three 50s. He hit the most sixes in BBL05 (27), striking at 164 in the powerplay, second only to Khawaja.

The selectors have backed themselves into a corner as there are only so many batting spots.

A major problem for the selectors is our bowling and the lack of flexibility. This tournament will be decided on how we bowl and how we field. We need to have a quality finger-spinner in our team but where does he fit in? Do they go for a Nathan Lyon, who has been OK, or for a young kid like Chris Green who had a great BBL05 and who nobody has seen on the international stage? The selectors need to pick one of these players at the expense of Lynn. Will they pick a kid like Green, who is a better fielder and batsman than the experienced Lyon?

Australia have a lot of work to do on and off the field if they want to win their first World T20. The non-selection of Khawaja in international limited-overs games and the poor performance of the bowlers have caused selectors some problems. The Australian team looked flat in the field in Adelaide and couldn't bowl defensive lengths after the 10th over.

Our batting order is somewhat skewiff. T20 cricket is so much a specialist format that many players selected will actually play in different positions than they are accustomed to.

Finch's record in the Indian Premier League is not great, with 911 runs at a strike rate of 121, and needs to improve. Watson's IPL record is better when he opens – with 2372 runs and an average of 38 with a strikerate of 140. Watson is likely to bat at three and we need his bowling.

Khawaja is best suited to open the innings. His fielding can be sometimes questionable, but he can do a job in the circle.

The major problem is our death bowling. If Mitchell Starc was playing, we would be stand-out favourites to win the tournament. We lack bowlers who can bowl yorkers when required. Our bowlers use the ball cross-seam too much for my liking.

The No. 7 – or bowling all-rounder – plays such an important role. Who will the selectors go for? A priority is for a bowler to bowl four quality overs but the likes of Mitch Marsh and John Hastings have been a bit expensive. I feel we need a quality finger spinner who can bowl at 95km/h and that is why I like Green, who did a great job for the Thunder, taking eight wickets at an economy rate of 7.5. I doubt selectors will take that risk because of his inexperience, but I would pick him in the squad for team balance.

Our strength is no doubt our batting. We have power right down to No. 8. There are a lot of players who can do utility jobs and we have up to eight different options with the ball. Many of our players have played in the IPL and that is experience you cannot buy. Just the feel of the ground and having a full understanding of how the pitches will play will be a huge bonus for the team.

We have never won a World Twenty20. I know with our experience that if they get into contention, they will go close.

Our bowling lacks depth and flexibility. Past champion teams have had a quality spinner. The highest winning score in five World Twenty20 finals has been 157 and it always comes back to the quality of bowling and fielding.

On the selection panel, is it time to have a specialised T20 selection panel that feature the likes of Ricky Ponting, Brad Hodge, Brad Haddin and Mark Waugh? These guys know a lot about T20 cricket, and understand what is required to be successful.

SELECTORS' BEST AUSTRALIAN XI FOR WORLD TWENTY20:

1 Aaron Finch. 246 runs from five games in BBL05 (strike rate 143). Sixth-best strike rate in powerplay overs in BBL05 at 146.

2 Usman Khawaja. An amazing BBL05 with 345 runs at a staggering 173 average, with a strike rate over 164. In powerplays, he scored 164 runs.

3 Shane Watson. Has played more than 150 T20 games. Strong finish to BBL05. His record in the IPL over the years is brilliant with bat and ball.

4 Steve Smith. Great reputation as a player of spin bowling. Strike rate of better than 120.

5 Glenn Maxwell. Has a played more than 150 T20 games. Plays spin brilliantly. Injury concerns with a hamstring.

6 David Warner. Hasn't played much at six, but needs to become a power hitter here. His IPL numbers are terrific.

7 Matthew Wade. Only made 77 runs from five innings in BBL05 (strike rate 120). BBL05 strike rate is in line with career strike rate at an uninspiring 120. Batting at six he needs to be closer to 130.

8 James Faulkner. Over 100 T20 games. Only one innings of substance in BBL05 (45 not out from 36 v Thunder). One wicket from five games with the ball and went for plenty against the Thunder (0-49 from four overs).

9 Kane Richardson. Went for only six runs an over in the powerplay in BBL05, but didn't take a wicket in the powerplay. BBL05 death bowling: 4-72 from 6.3 overs at an expensive 11 runs an over.

10 Cameron Boyce. BBL05 middle overs bowling: 22 overs, 8-173 (7.86 runs an over). Second-highest wicket-taker in overs 7-15 behind Adil Rashid.

11 Shaun Tait. BBL05 death bowling: 6-60 from seven overs. Weakness: 4-86 from 12 powerplay overs in BBL05 at 7.17 an over. Relatively economical but did he pick up enough early wickets? When he bowled in the middle overs in BBL05 he took 0-101 from 12 overs. Total of three wickets in his last four BBL games (0-38 v Renegades, 0-22 v Stars, 2-29 v Scorchers, 1-30 v Strikers).

AND IN RESERVE

John Hastings. BBL05 death bowling 5-91 off 48 balls (11.38 an over). Good strike rate but too expensive.

Mitch Marsh. Can be a bit expensive with the ball but can change the momentum of a match. His batting is suited to the short boundaries in India.

Shaun Marsh. Probably the best batsman in BBL history. Career figures of 1127 runs at 59 with a strike rate of 130. No other player with 500 BBL runs averages better than 44.

Nathan Lyon. His numbers are OK in the T20 format. Cannot continue to bowl around the wicket all the time and needs to develop an arm ball to be more successful, like Ravichandran Ashwin.

'MONEYBALL' THEORIES FOR T20

(Based on all 171 BBL games and all 524 IPL games):

Why the Thunder won the BBL

Thunder won the powerplay by more than 6 runs in the final.

If you win the powerplay by more than 6 runs you win 73% of the time in the BBL and 69% of the time in the IPL.

Thunder won the first 10 overs by more than 10 runs.

If you win the first 10 overs by more than 10 runs you win 76% of the time in both the BBL and the IPL.

Thunder didn't lose a wicket in the powerplay.

If you don't lose a wicket in the powerplay overs you win 66% of the time in the BBL, and 71% of the time in the IPL.

When batting second, don't lose a wicket in the first 8 overs.

If you're chasing a target and don't lose a wicket in the first 8 overs, you win 80% of the time in the BBL, and 81% in the IPL.

When bowling first, go into the break with momentum:

The Stars' batsmen finished with 9-7-6 from the last three overs. If you're bowling first and keep the opposition under 23 runs from the final three overs, you win 68% of the time in the BBL, and 76% of the time in the IPL.

The Thunder bowlers won the powerplay.

Teams that make 176 batting first, usually score between 50 and 60 in the powerplay overs. The Stars made 43, with only one double-figure over (6-1-16-5-6-9). The Stars were probably 7-10 runs short of where they should have been after six overs.

Stats: Brett Graham
Twitter: @brett_graham