Best not to fidget or be funky: Australia still trying to find itself at World Twenty20

Arguably, Australia stand to gain more from moving Warner up than they lose from sending Watson lower, writes Osman Samiuddin. It might happen on Friday against Pakistan. It maybe should have been happening already.

Pakistan v Australia, Friday, 1.30pm (UAE time)

Hmmm, no, not just yet: two weeks into the World Twenty20 and it still does not seem as if Australia have really arrived at the tournament.

They are physically here, and have physically played two games, too. But mostly they have hovered around the edges of this party, waiting, just waiting to jump in and introduce themselves.

That is partly the result of a schedule that has seen them play one less game than the other teams in their group. It is also because there has not been the performance that defines their story here – a scrappy, nervy loss to New Zealand is cancelled out by a scrappy, nervy win against Bangladesh.

New Zealand have a great story. Bangladesh have a heartbreaking story. Pakistan have a mad story. India have an unexpected story.

Australia? Sorry, still writing it and yes we know, the deadline is at hand.

Read more from Osman Samiuddin:

It almost feels deliberate, an elaborate ruse of flexibility and fluidity hiding their true identity or, for now at least, their best batting order.

“We have to sum up the situation before each game we play,” captain Steve Smith wrote in a Fox Sports column ahead of this game.

“Right now, the batting order is not set in stone – we have to weigh up what we think the best match-ups are against Pakistan, and against India after that.”

Specifically, Smith is referring to David Warner batting at No 4, which he is happy to do, but which robs Australia of a bullying kind of dominance at the top.

The starts provided by Shane Watson and Usman Khawaja in their games so far have hardly been tardy, but the effect of a Warner blitz multiplies beyond its duration – sometimes attacks never recover once he is done distorting their minds.

Read more: 'Now really is the right time': Australia's Shane Watson will retire from all forms after World T20

The problem is Khawaja and if all problems were that beautiful, then who needs a solution? In this touch, where he could drive a feather to the boundary, he cannot be denied and Australia feel he is best utilised as an opener.

For contrast a right-hander is preferable, but if Warner is the alternative then why prolong the bluff of the batting order? His game against spin, and on surfaces slower than what he might find in Australia, has evolved considerably. Take away his two innings in this tournament at four, in the region he averages over 32 at a strike rate above 130.

Arguably, Australia stand to gain more from moving Warner up than they lose from sending Watson lower, where, in any case, he has experience in the Indian Premier League (IPL).

It might happen on Friday against Pakistan and it might too against India on Sunday. It maybe should have been happening already.

“I don’t think we have hit 100 per cent just yet,” Smith said on Thursday. “But I think that’s good in the tournament. You want to play your best cricket at the back-end of the tournament.

“Having said that, you want to win games as well. I think we are close. Hopefully over the next two games, we can play to our potential.”

If you wanted, you could also see in that order one more sign that sometimes Australia have been too fidgety in their dealings with the format. Between the end of the last World Twenty20 and the start of this one, for instance, they handed out 16 debuts in just 11 matches.

They have used nine captains in all since playing their first Twenty20 international in 2005. They have often made some genuinely intriguing left-field choices but then bailed on them too quickly.

Sometimes, as with this batting order, perhaps it is best not to fidget or be funky. Have faith in its strengths, let it appear in what is its strongest, natural permutation and then unleash it.

Still, as Smith acknowledged, this can be a fickle format and so is funkiness.

Do well, like New Zealand have done, and it is funky like George Clinton. Do not so well, as Australia might yet, and it will be funky like a bad smell.

osamiuddin@thenational.ae

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