opinion

MITCHELL JOHNSON: Australia left to rue what-if moments after T20 World Cup failure

Mitchell Johnson
The Nightly
There are plenty of what-ifs from Australia's World Cup efforts.
There are plenty of what-ifs from Australia's World Cup efforts. Credit: Supplied

Poor fielding, a lack of overall energy and perhaps even a hint of complacency were all factors behind Australia’s failure at the T20 World Cup.

But any disappointing tournament also leaves a trail of what-ifs when it comes to selection decisions, and this is no different.

We’ll never know how young gun Jake Fraser-McGurk would have gone on the back of his exciting form in the Indian Premier League. Would he have given Australia explosive starts or would the difficult conditions have got the better of him?

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I would have played him as he was in form and when you have young, hungry players come in, that lifts the team too. It pushes the experienced guys to go with them.

Why was Matthew Wade in the team after telling us for years he’s retiring? I’m not sure of the reasoning for picking Wade as a wicketkeeper-batsman over Josh Inglis but for me this seemed like a backward step.

Wade, 36, always has a crack and has been strong overall in Twenty20 cricket. He comes with plenty of chat behind the stumps and has a bit of that mongrel about him, which is good, but I still don’t understand how he was favoured over Inglis.

The omission of left-armer Mitchell Starc for the crucial Super Eights game against Afghanistan was also hard to understand.

I bet the in-form Afghanistan opening pair of Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran, who put on 118, were happy when they saw Starc’s name was not on the team sheet.

Starc brings the variety Australia need to have a balanced team. Going with the extra spin bowler in Ashton Agar in helpful conditions was fine, but why play Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Marcus Stoinis as your seamers who are all very similar in bowling style.

David Warner’s international career has come to an end.

I’m sure he will be feeling all kinds of emotions and as a retiring player, you look at your entire career, not just the last moment. Of course you want to go out with a win and in this case holding the T20 World Cup trophy.

But it’s more than that. When you retire from the game you’ve played for a long time, you just want to go out the way you started.

Well in my case it was – and that meant going out enjoying the game with no pressure and playing with absolute freedom. We start playing cricket because we love playing and enjoy it. If you can win with that then that’s a bonus.

But when it all comes to end, the last result isn’t what matters.

It’s the legacy you leave behind and how you feel about it, along with all the great memories made along the way.

David Warner and Virat Kohli.
David Warner and Virat Kohli. Credit: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

I’m sure Warner will be remembered for many reasons and when it comes to opening batsmen, he will be remembered as one of the best.

Fraser-McGurk’s time will come now and this will be a tough transition period for Australia’s top order. It will take some patience and some trust and it may take some time. They won’t get another Warner straight away.

Fraser-McGurk and other new opening options will have their ups and downs trying to find their feet. They will build their own legacy over time so let’s not compare them to Warner when they fail.

For Australia to miss the semis of the T20 World Cup again will be a shock to some, but it also shows that T20 cricket around the world has been a positive avenue for growth and development.

There were plenty of tight games throughout, the skills of T20 continue to improve and you need some luck to go your way also.

Australia’s preparation was less than ideal, fielding teams of less than 11 players in their warm-up games, but I don’t think it really mattered in the end.

Delhi Capitals' Jake Fraser-McGurk plays a shot.
Delhi Capitals' Jake Fraser-McGurk plays a shot. Credit: NOAH SEELAM/AFP

Most of the Australian players had enough cricket under their belts. Perhaps not in those conditions, but Australia played some good T20 along the way.

Australia seemed to lack their usual passion and energy but it’s hard to blame two months of Indian Premier League cricket in the lead-up for that when the Indian players haven’t looked drained or lacking in energy.

The IPL and other franchise leagues around the world aren’t going away and players have to make these choices. You just can’t be tired if you are choosing to play IPL when it’s your off-season which you could be using to freshen up.

I actually thought having plenty of Aussies playing in the IPL this year was a good lead-in to the T20 World Cup, which negates the argument about the warm-up matches.

But if players are coming out and saying they are tired and need regular rests from international white-ball matches, then the amount of cricket becomes a problem.

Better choices need to be made so our best players can be ripe and ready for a World Cup, which is the highest priority. There is no better feeling than winning a World Cup for your country, with your teammates, and with the nation behind you.

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