Australia are primed for the threat posed by India at the start of their T20 World Cup campaign next month with head coach Matthew Mott going as far as saying they are the most feared T20 batting line-up in the world.
The Australia-India match at the Sydney Showgrounds Stadium on February 21 has the makings of a high-octane start to the tournament but before that the teams will meet in a tri-series, also involving England, which will provide an intense build-up to the competition.
India and England are the only teams to have beaten Australia since January 2018 – all in T20Is – with India getting the better of the group stage match at the last T20 World Cup in the Caribbean although it had no bearing on Australia’s progression through a tournament they eventually won.
India will be led by Harmanpreet Kaur, who struck an unbeaten 171 against Australia in the semi-final of the 2017 World Cup, with the top order also including the prodigious 15-year-old Shafali Verma.
“There’s no doubt their strength is the batting. They’ve got four world-class batters and when I say world-class I mean top of the tree guns. They will always be a threat,” Mott told ESPNcricinfo. “Their bowling, their plans have worked quite well over the years but I think that’s their biggest area for growth. They probably need to produce some more fast bowlers. In a T20 they would be the most feared batting line-up – ours is pretty feared but with them you know that if you take a wicket another good player just keeps rolling out.”
“That tri-series comes at a perfect time. We’ve always viewed the next month as a really good opportunity to play against the two other best teams in the world. It can’t get any better. If we dropped a couple of games there it’s not the end of the world and we expect to be taken to task.”
Australia, who will name their T20 World Cup squad on Thursday, are in what is considered to be the tougher of the two pools at the T20 World Cup alongside India, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, with the top two progressing to the semi-finals, but they see benefits in beginning their title defence against one of the contenders for the prize.
“For us it’s almost a blessing playing India up front, it will be a real test of how we are going as a group and how they are going as well,” Alyssa Healy told ESPNcricinfo. “They are a world-class side and when they are playing well they are hard to stop. I actually think they are very strong in Australian conditions as well, they have a lot of players who have been out to play Big Bash and a lot of players in that India A series. They’ll be hard to stop, but we know if we are playing our best cricket we are the No. 1 team in the world and we should be able to handle it.”
Due to scheduling clashes with their tour of West Indies there we no India players in this year’s first standalone WBBL. But plenty of other names who will feature in the tournament were on display, led by the prolific Sophie Devine who was named player of the tournament, and Healy believes it will bring teams closer together on the field.
“Hundred percent, and that’s what’s been so good about the WBBL, a lot of players from around the world get experience in our conditions,” she said. “Being slightly biased we’d have loved them not to play this year just to take that out of play, but it’s great to have them here. Sophie Devine is in red-hot form and to have New Zealand in our pool, I think we have a really tricky pool, and the two teams that go through to the semis are going to have to earn it. Hopefully they don’t take too many learnings from the Big Bash into their own sides, but hopefully there’s some good cricket.”