ICC World Twenty20
Aussies taking T20 seriously
Michael Clarke (Gallo Images)
Sydney - Australia have struggled to come to terms with the demands of Twenty20 cricket but are taking steps to ensure they will not be embarrassed again in the West Indies.
The Australians were dumped from last year's World Twenty20 in England in three days after chastening defeats by the West Indies and Sri Lanka and they were soundly beaten by India in the 2007 semi-final.
But there are signs the Aussies, under new skipper Michael Clarke, are finally coming to terms with cricket's shortest format.
They have won four of their five T20 internationals this year and are heading to the Caribbean confident of finally coming to grips with cricket's immensely-popular hybrid.
"This time around with Australia, we're actually respecting the game of Twenty20 a lot more," wicketkeeper Brad Haddin said.
"Last time we went to the World Cup (in England) there was a lot of focus when we went over there for the Ashes. But this time we're going to the West Indies with our sole focus being the World Twenty20.
"And the way it is at the moment, it's taking over the world so you've got to show the game the respect it deserves."
Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland has envisioned a cricket future of separate Test and Twenty20 sides playing concurrently and the official acceptance signals that Australia is now taking T20 seriously.
Australia have recruited a specialist opposition scout to help plot their Caribbean campaign, which gets underway against Pakistan at Gros Islet, St Lucia, on May 2.
Cricket Australia have outsourced some of their pre-tournament planning to Melbourne club player-coach Michael Sholly to analyse opposition teams and players in the Indian Premier League.
"We've been playing so much that it was difficult for us to keep an eye on things in the IPL while we were in New Zealand," team coach Tim Nielsen said.
"It was a good chance to broaden a role we already had and be a bit more specific towards Twenty20 cricket. It's another piece in the puzzle."
Nielsen is confident Australia will be better prepared for what confronts them in the West Indies.
"The nature of the beast is that if you lose two or three overs of the contest you can really put yourself under pressure," he said.
"That is one of the areas we wanted to improve, get a little bit more knowledge about how these guys from the opposition are playing Twenty20 cricket so if we see things start to happen, hopefully we have got some information we can react to rather than try and learn on the go."
Clarke, who took over the captaincy when Ricky Ponting announced his retirement from T20 cricket last September to concentrate on playing Test and one-day internationals, has a multi-skilled squad at his disposal.
He can call on the prodigious-hitting abilities of David Warner, Shane Watson, Cameron White and Haddin, the steadying experience of Mike Hussey and the explosive bowling combination of Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson and Shaun Tait.
Fast bowling warhorse Lee has had a troubled buildup to the World Twenty20 after he was surprisingly preferred to Ryan Harris in the Australian squad.
Lee, 33, who recently retired from Tests to prolong his career, is struggling to recover from a broken thumb on his bowling hand suffered in the Indian Premier League.
Chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch admitted his perseverance with Lee was a "leap of faith," but he considered it one worth taking given the fast bowler's decorated record in limited overs cricket.