When it comes to the blame game for Australia’s failure to defend their T20 World Cup title on home soil, no one can escape the proverbial blowtorch.
Simply put, no one from the selectors and coach to the captain, batters and bowlers will come out of this listless performance with their reputations boosted.
Off-pitch makers paid the price for being overly conservative in their approach to cricket’s most innovative performances, while players didn’t train with bat or ball in hand or perform particularly well on field.
Australia won’t be playing in this format again until next August, so Aaron Finch’s retirement is surely just a matter of finding an opportune time to make the announcement.
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Alert the designers to redo the graphic which simply needs to be posted on social media before anyone can make a substantial announcement these days.
The simple fact is that Finch should have retired long before this tournament.
In sports, the truly great teams regenerate their squad too soon rather than too late. Those who become Dynasties are notorious for ditching veteran players when it’s better for the team and not when the player wants to bring down the curtain.
Finch was one of Australia’s all-time best white-ball hitters in both shortened formats, but the signs were there last year in the United Arab Emirates that he would never return to his best form and the selectors didn’t ignored the warning signs.
T20 cricket is not the young player’s game of cricketer everyone expects – players at international level can still produce well into their thirties, but when a batter, especially an opener who usually faces the fastest bowlers lose that fraction of speed in footwork and hand-eye coordination, the drop in form can be dramatic.
But it wasn’t just about Finch that the selectors got it wrong. They tried to enter the only T20 game of the Pakistan tour and all three games in Sri Lanka early to give fringe players a chance – Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Josh Inglis, Cameron Green, Ben McDermott, Sean Abbott, Jhye Richardson, Ben Dwarshuis and Nathan Ellis starred in that narrow win in Lahore or in the series against Sri Lanka.
They were all shelved when the players from last year’s title triumph were available.
Green’s fate was the perfect example of the selection board’s confused approach. He was brushed off for Sri Lanka games after two wickets and one miss with the bat in Pakistan until the warm-up series in India at the end of September after World Cup squad selection.
It was no surprise he walked out on the cheap after having a late chance to open for Australia as Finch was crippled for the game against Afghanistan given he hadn’t played for almost a month.
Players like Richardson, Ellis and Green must surely now have a better chance of solidifying their place in the T20 team as Australia enter the next cycle towards the 2024 tournament in the United States and the Caribbean.
As the ODI team should be focused on four-year missions, the T20 team can afford to experiment with all sorts of combinations next year and next summer so that when the time comes for the next World Cup, they have the right combinations with players who have spent a decent amount of matches together in their specialist roles.
To that end, that means Steve Smith, Kane Richardson and Matthew Wade should be eliminated while star veterans like Glenn Maxwell, David Warner, Marcus Stoinis and Mitchell Starc shouldn’t be selected unless they have the points. (or wickets) on the board. .
Australia has paid the price for its membership by underachieving veterans because of their reputation. You can’t afford passengers when you’re trying to win a World Cup.
South Africa found out the hard way on Sunday – their captain, Temba Bavuma, was in worse shape than Finch this year and the Proteas wilted again when the heat was applied.
Although Pat Cummins is not the skipper of the T20 team, the honeymoon period with the Australian cricketing public is well and truly over for Test captain and new manager Andrew McDonald.
Cummins has been widely praised for his leadership since taking over from Tim Paine a year ago in dramatic circumstances, while McDonald’s has faced little criticism for his low-key efforts since taking office when Justin Langer left amid further controversy in February.
Although Ricky Ponting questioned his place in the squad, Australia persisted with Cummins but his form with the ball was poor in the World Cup.
It lacks a genuine slower ball or much variety at all for that matter in the T20 arena and it paid the price for it – hauled for 132 carries from its 16 overs during the tournament, at a save rate of 8, 25, with just three wickets to his name.
McDonald faced the media on Sunday after Australia’s exit was completed by England’s win over Sri Lanka the night before and said there was no excuse for their lackluster campaign.
Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan, and McDonald said the entire team roster must accept responsibility for not getting past the Super 12 stage.
McDonald admitted “we really only have ourselves to blame” and said there would be personnel changes, but again declined to say whether Finch would be tapped on the shoulder.
“We’ll see what it looks like in terms of building towards the next World Cup in 2024,” he said.
“There will be a natural turnover because of the gap and the space, as well as the age profile of the team. So there will be people who will have opportunities, but next August when we play again at T20.
“I haven’t really thought about it or taken a lot of time, it’s a bit raw coming up to a World Cup,” he added when asked about the Finch’s future. “But he has time to think about it.
“Every time you, I guess, start thinking about it, the end will be nearer one day, there’s no doubt about that. I think the Big Bash will probably determine his future – how he goes, his performance, how his body hold on.
Even if he comes back in force in the BBL, the door of the Australian selection should be closed forever.
You get the feeling McDonald and fellow coaches George Bailey and Tony Dodemaide are trying to be too understanding and frankly too nice to their players.
It’s not their job. Of course, they must be professional and not callous when making calls that have major consequences or could end a professional sportsman’s career, but they must make the right decisions.
And they haven’t since the moment Finch lifted the trophy last November.
McDonald also defended the decision to drop Starc for Kane Richardson in their last game when the substitute dressmaker was spanked around Adelaide Oval for 48 runs in his four overs while taking just one wicket.
“We were looking to strengthen the back with Kane Richardson so we focused on death bowling, that was really the decision in a nutshell,” McDonald said.
“Any time you leave out a player of Mitchell Starc’s stature, it’s always going to create, I guess, significant attention – how would you put it –.
“The reality is that we have 15 players who could arguably be in the 11 and those who are missing are always going to be really stiff.”
It’s hard work being a manager – the Australian men’s cricket team in all formats almost always has and almost always should have players who feel aggrieved at not being in the squad.