Now he spends much of his time as a professional poker player, Shane Warne knows a thing or two about having a good hand, and the former spin bowling legend will be confident about the hand Australia have going into this World T20 in Bangladesh. Warne, who was appointed by head coach Darren Lehmann to work with the T20 spinners ahead of the tournament, is one of a number of Australians feeling confident in the knowledge they are heading to Bangladesh as the firm betting favourites for the title.
While Warne spends much of his days sharpening his poker skills rather than his spinning skills due to his role as a professional poker player, the 44-year old is hoping to have passed on some useful tips that could see the Aussie spin bowlers get the most out of the sub-continent conditions the team will play on this month in Bangladesh.
After failing to win a tournament between 1987 and 1999, Australia have become one of the dominant forces in ODI tournaments in recent times, winning three World Cups and two Champions Trophies from 1999 up until 2009. Yet despite their dominance in the 50-over tournaments, Australia have so far failed to transfer that success into the Twenty20 format of the game.
The Aussies were knocked out of the inaugural World T20 at the semi-final stage by India, failing to make it beyond the first round two years before finishing runners-up behind England in 2010. A semi-final loss to eventual winners the West Indies in 2012 continued the Aussies record of never winning the tournament, although that hasn’t stopped punters backing Lehmann’s men to leave Bangladesh as champions this time around.
Following a difficult couple of years of transition following the retirements of several key players such as Warne, Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist, the current Australian Test team has shown more than enough evidence that they are back to being the world’s number-one team. A sensational 5-0 Ashes victory over England was followed up with a very impressive 2-1 away series win against current Test kings South Africa. The question will be whether they can now transfer that success over into the Twenty20 side.
Captained by George Bailey, this Aussie squad is certainly heading to Bangladesh with everything a team needs to win this tournament. They have power-hitters at the top and in the middle order, with a large number of the team vastly experienced in playing top-level T20 cricket in the Indian Premier League.
While the loss of Mitchell Johnson through injury could have been a massive blow, the in-form pace attack has more than enough depth needed to cover the loss of the left-armer. Despite the limited stock of world class spin bowlers the Aussies have at their disposal at the moment, the likes of Brad Hogg, James Muirhead and Glenn Maxwell will have all benefited hugely from working closely with one of the greatest spin bowlers of all time in Shane Warne.
Before thinking of winning the tournament, though, Australia will need to secure a top two finish in a tough Group B containing India, Pakistan and defending champions the West Indies. If they can achieve that, it would be hard to bet against Lehmann’s men going on to secure the title.