Australia’s captain Aaron Finch
Australia’s captain Aaron Finch (right) celebrates a dismissal during the ICC men’s Twenty20 World Cup 2022 cricket match against Sri Lanka at Perth Stadium on October 25, 2022. Such celebrations were rare for the defending champions, who crashed out in the Super 12 phase. Image Credit: AFP

What happened to Australia in the T20 World Cup? They didn’t even make the semifinals. That’s a mighty fall for the defending champions and one of the pre-tournament favourites. I had picked them to win again on the strength of their quality of players.

Alas, quality doesn’t count, and performance does. Australia were found wanting throughout the tournament. Right from the rout against New Zealand in the Super 12 opener, the Australian displays were undercooked. Not once did they look dominant enough to justify the tag of favourites.

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The wins weren’t convincing. After the abandoned game (due to rain) with England, it required a beefy knock from Marcus Stoinis to ease past Sri Lanka. Lorcan Tucker’s plucky knock delayed their victory over Ireland, impacting their net run rate, which again suffered in the struggle against brave Afghanistan.

A negative net run rate meant the Aaron Finch-led side had to rely on favourable results of other teams in the group to land a last-four slot. Hardly the position befitting a team who were crowned T20 World Cup champions in Dubai 12 months back.

The results didn’t go Australia as New Zealand and England made light of their losses to power away to decisive wins in crunch games. The Australians didn’t have the steel to quash rival challenges, which is a sad commentary on a team packed with power players. That was the difference.

Where did Australia go wrong?

That’s difficult to believe since it’s almost the same team that raced to victories in the UAE last year. In fact, the team is stronger with the addition of the finisher Tim David. Which is why I thought that they were a formidable team.

So, where did they go wrong? Pretty much in every facet of the game. Only spinners Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar held their own in the matches they played. Beyond that, consistency was lacking from the rest.

David Warner was a pale shadow of the batsman who won the Player of the Tournament award last year. With captain Finch struggling for timing (he looked good only in one game), Australia were deprived of solid starts.

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Mitch Marsh, another star from last year, failed to kick on after getting into the twenties. That put pressure on the middle order, where Stoinis had to bail them out on some occasions. Even Glenn Maxwell failed to produce quickfire innings consistently. Matthew Wade and Tim David didn’t blaze away whenever they batted.

One of the enduring images from the 2021 World Cup was Wade repeatedly scooping Pakistan’s ace pace bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi was sixes. Such moments were rare this year, barring Stoinis’s six-hitting against the Sri Lankans.

The bowling too never looked threatening. Josh Hazlewood could not replicate last year’s success on seam-friendly pitches in his backyard. Mitchell Starc threatened on occasions but went for runs and was inexplicably dropped for the Afghanistan tie. Pat Cummins bowled well only in patches, and that’s not enough to blow teams away.

The jinx of defending champions

Finch’s leadership wasn’t inspiring either. He seemed content to win games rather than thrash rivals, which would have lifted their net run rate. And that mattered when Australia tied on seven points with New Zealand and England. This meant the jinx of hosts and defending champions never winning the T20 World Cup continued.

My prediction may have gone wrong, but I shed no tears for Australia. Their displays were not good enough.

Baggy greens, they may be, but the team hardly looked the part.