It might still be considered a bit of ‘hit and giggle’ by traditionalists around the world, but as the rise in popularity of Twenty20 cricket has staggered all and sundry, the seriousness with which teams approach the format has gone from the heady days of retro shirts, headbands and fuzzy afros when Australia travelled to New Zealand for the first international game to big business.
Australia were perhaps one of the last international outfits to genuinely understand the serious nature of the format at international level. As the Big Bash League went from strength to strength, injecting funds into Cricket Australia and delivering a whole new set of fans to the game, the boffins and bean counters quickly turned their attention to ensuring Australia dominated the shortest format as they had done for both Test and ODIs for much of the last two decades.
An unlikely leader
Finally now, under the stewardship of an unlikely leader, David Warner, Australia is on the cusp of becoming the world’s number one ranked Twenty20 team. In a period of time where Australia have been deprived of the man many consider the best batsman in world cricket, Test skipper Steve Smith, Warner and a mish-mash of BBL high-flyers, all-rounders and some steady hands have turned around the nation’s fortunes in Twenty20 cricket.
The man himself is coy on whether or not he’d take the reins full-time, suggesting he hasn’t spoken to Smith about that prospect, but based on the empirical evidence we have at hand, it would seem handing charge of the Twenty20 side to Warner would probably be a rare win-win-win situation.
Obviously, the show of faith in the leadership, guile and nous of a guy like David Warner is a big win for the man himself. Never shy of an endorsement opportunity, just check out the giant OLED TV in my living room that was a Warner-inspired purchase one summer, becoming captain of the side would be a big boost on and off the field for the cheeky, brash star.
Australia itself gets in on the winning action with a captain who has proven adept at composing tactical strategy and crafting an approach to the format that is successful. Whether batting himself, deploying his bowling unit, setting the field or remaining a calm, calculating figure in the face of significant adversity (think chasing down 240+ runs in a Twenty20 for goodness sake!), Warner has proven a valid skipper.
Also, in a stunning turn of events, as they prepare for tonight’s tri-series final against New Zealand in Auckland, Australia could well become the number one ranked side in the world in Twenty20 cricket.Astonishing enough in and of itself, the fact that they started the series ranked seventh is a genuine testament to the strength and success of Warner’s spell through this campaign.
Thirdly, I would suggest that handing over the skipper’s gig in the Twenty20 format to Warner would be a blessing for Steve Smith. The man who took his batting to a whole new level after being handed the captaincy in Test cricket has yet to consistently turn his talent into runs and big scores in both shorter forms of the game.
Perhaps, with lesser duties on matchday for Smith, he could vastly improve his Twenty20 run return and be a far more valuable asset than he has proven to date.