ICC T20 World Cup 2022: Weaknesses of the top 5 T20I teams
The ICC T20 World Cup is less than 100 days away and the countdown has already started. It is only the second instance of the tournament being held in consecutive years since 2010.
Having won the tournament last year, Australia will start as one of the favorites. Additionally, they will also have the added advantage of playing at home.
Most teams have been playing a lot of T20 cricket over the last few months as part of their efforts to fine-tune their squads ahead of the World Cup Down Under, which will be vastly different to the slow and dull surfaces of the UAE.
The likes of India, Pakistan, England and the West Indies have around 15 T20s leading up to the tournament, giving us an idea about the level of preparation.
With the multi-nation tournament inching closer, it is high time for them to address their respective areas of concern to the best of their abilities.
With that in mind, here's a look at some of the weaknesses of the top five T20I teams.
Although Australia will go into the tournament as defending champions, they aren't necessarily that strong. One of the major causes for concern is their captain Aaron Finch.
Finch has been a pale shadow of his destructive self over the last 18 months. He did win the Player of the Series away at Sri Lanka in the T20I series, but his return to form was short-lived as he could only manage 120 runs in the ODI series, including two ducks.
Finch isn’t the only senior batter under pressure, as Steve Smith has scored only 134 runs in his last eight T20I innings. The former skipper is of little use to a T20 team batting at No. 4 or 5, and could be dropped to make way for a player like Tim David. However, it remains to be seen if they can drop a player of Smith’s stature ahead of such a crucial tournament.
Among the bowlers, Josh Hazlewood has transformed himself into a top T20 bowler, but the same can't be said about Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins.
The duo have been pretty good in the powerplay and middle, but have conceded more than 10 runs per over at the death since 2021. Even their first-choice backups, Jhye Richardson and Kane Richardson, can be expensive at the death.
Considering the skills Starc possesses as a bowler, Australia need him to rediscover his best form soon or they might have to bring Nathan Ellis into the fold.
#4 South Africa
After a period of transition, South Africa once again have a formidable group of players, but this time without the pressure their predecessors had.
Like Australia, one of their major issues is their captain. It's perhaps an even bigger concern than the Aussies as Temba Bavuma has never been a prolific T20 player, unlike Finch, who could be a match-winner if he rediscovers his form.
Bavuma has just one half-century in 24 innings and strikes at 120.6. There is a catch, however. Given that he isn't as big a name as Finch, he could potentially be replaced as captain.
The Proteas will play five T20Is in England and Ireland. With Bavuma ruled out due to injury, good performances from the likes of Heinrich Klaasen and David Miller could make them strong contenders for the captaincy.
Their bowling attack is quite good and covers all phases of the innings. Anrich Nortje might not have found his best form yet but that isn't a huge concern. He is returning from a six-month layoff and it is natural that he will be rusty for a few games. With three months left, one can expect him to get back to his best for the World Cup.
South Africa have a solid side and this is a massive opportunity for them to end their trophy drought.
Pakistan will want to improve on their semi-final appearance from the previous World Cup, where they won all five group stage games, including a win over arch-rivals India.
They have two high-quality openers in Babar Azam and Mohammed Rizwan, but outside of them, their batting unit looks quite bleak. They're all proven PSL performers but have struggled to translate that into international success.
None of them average over 25 in T20Is. Iftikhar Ahmed could potentially play for Haider Ali, but he has averaged 13.83 over the last two years. Promoting Shadab Khan up the order could be their best solution as they've often under-utilised his batting potential and not let him flourish like he has in the PSL.
Shaheen Afridi, Shadab Khan and Haris Rauf form a pretty solid bowling core but the other eight overs could be problematic. Hasan Ali, Shahnawaz Dahani and Imad Wasim all have a tendency to leak runs. Not having a proven sixth bowler could make it an even bigger issue as Khushdil Shah has only bowled two overs in T20Is.
Pakistan certainly have some world-class players in their ranks, but an inconsistent support cast could make things tricky for them in the T20 WC.
After Eoin Morgan's retirement, England will have a new leader in the form of Jos Buttler for the tournament, and he'll hope to announce his arrival as captain with a trophy. However, it won't be an easy task.
Jason Roy's recent form will concern the team management as he has struggled for both runs and strike rate. However, one would expect them to persist with him despite the form because of his ability to handle pace and bounce with ease, something that's a necessity in Australia.
Ben Stokes presents them with a tricky situation. He has been underwhelming in the middle order in T20Is, and the best way to maximize his potential is to bat him in the top 3. They could drop Dawid Malan for Harry Brook as a potential solution and play him at No. 6 instead.
Malan's form for England has been poor, barring his 77 in the third T20I against India. He will have to continue the momentum from the last game against India to cement his place in the side.
Long-term injuries to both Jofra Archer and Mark Wood have significantly weakened their bowling attack, and a lot will depend on how quickly they return to fitness and form.
Not only are they England's best pacers, but they're also far better suited to those conditions than their backups. The likes of Chris Jordan, Richard Gleeson, and Reece Topley have shown that they are capable performers, but they're still not as good.
They do have a couple of minor concerns with the bat but, ultimately, a lot will boil down to the fitness of their two premier quicks. If they do recover, they will obviously be hot favorites.
Nine years without lifting an ICC trophy is simply too much for India given the quality they possess. While Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli have struggled for runs in the IPL, that hasn't been the case for India. They have averaged 30.3 and 47.5, respectively, in T20Is since 2021 while scoring at a healthy rate.
The duo also happen to be amongst India's finest players of pace bowling, and have incredible numbers in Australia. Thus, it is clear that they are going to be vital and there should be no doubt regarding their places.
Dinesh Karthik, Suryakumar Yadav, and Rishabh Pant will battle it out for the remaining two batting slots. Karthik could take up one of them, given that he is a specialist finisher, something India needs. Yadav and Pant, meanwhile, will be vying for the No. 4 position, and both have equally valid arguments.
While the former is in incredible form, the latter has the advantage of being a left-hander despite his poor form at present. If they go with Yadav, they'll have just one left-handed batter, and teams can target them with left arm spinners and leggies. It will be a difficult decision to make, and they'll be hoping Pant returns to form to make it slightly easier.
The bowling attack is quite complete, especially with Hardik Pandya's return, meaning they have six bowling options. Overall, India certainly have the resources to contest for the title.
Get IPL 2023 Live Score along with Points Table & Schedule Updates at Sportskeeda.