Shane Watson says “the cruisy ride” is over for national selectors following Australia’s failed T20 World Cup defence, labelling the decision to drop Mitchell Starc for the final pool game as “very bizarre”.
Australia missed out on a spot in the semis after they finished behind New Zealand and England in their group, paying the price for a blowout loss to the Kiwis in the tournament opener.
The tournament hosts finished level on points with their rivals but missed out on net run rate after they failed to put teams like Ireland and Afghanistan to the sword when they had the chance.
“It is disappointing, there’s no question,” Watson said of Australia’s World Cup defence.
“I had really high hopes and expectations for the Australians after they were able to bring things together so nicely at the last T20 World Cup.
“They just seemed to lack that extra intensity and that extra bit of spark that they’ve had in the past.
“When you’ve got a number of guys who aren’t performing and aren’t putting their hand up to perform, then you can’t expect to beat these world-class teams that they’re playing against.
“It was very, very disappointing to watch the brand of cricket that the Aussies played during this tournament.”
Watson said one of the biggest mistakes leading into the World Cup was new coach Andrew McDonald tinkering with the side.
“I was always very concerned in the lead-up to this T20 World Cup about the changes that were being made,” he said.
“I understand resting because there’s a lot of T20 cricket played in the lead-up to this tournament starting in a close proximity, so I understand they were trying to keep people fresh.
“But chopping and changing roles as significantly as they did was something that I couldn’t believe was happening.
“I was hoping things would click, but they didn’t.”
The lack of continuity in the squad reared its head in the final group game against Afghanistan when spearhead Mitchell Starc was left out of the team.
It was a baffling call given Starc possesses the speed and swing that would have helped Australia pick up the quick wickets they needed, just like he’d shown with a couple of searing yorkers against Ireland that were virtually unplayable.
“It was very bizarre,” Watson said.
“I was gobsmacked that he missed out.
“Initially, when I heard it, I thought Mitchell Starc must be injured because if someone was going to be out for Kane Richardson to come in, I thought it’d be Pat Cummins.
“A lot of my friends and people I was commentating with, that was their perspective as well.
“It was very bizarre, and I really feel for Mitchell Starc because he’s turned it on for Australia in the big games in World Cups.
“To do that to one of your main guys, I feel really sorry for him.
“I think the majority of people around the world were blown away that Mitchell Starc missed out.
“Those things send shockwaves through a team, and unfortunately in a big game where the Aussies had to step up and dominate, they weren’t able to do it.”
Watson says attention must now turn to McDonald and chairman of selectors George Bailey as the fallout continues just a year after the Aussies won the T20 World Cup in testing conditions.
“He’s a selector, so the selectors definitely need to take a look at themselves,” Watson said of McDonald.
“Him and George Bailey, the big decisions that they made in the lead-in to that tournament, they have to live and die by the sword with the decisions they made.
“They’ve had a pretty cruisy ride over the last little while because the Australians have been playing really nicely, but now a T20 World Cup at home where the team didn’t perform as the group certainly can, the microscope will be on them, as it should be.
“There are a lot of questions that need to be answered by the coaches and the selection staff to be able to right the wrongs. It seems to be the same patterns that we’re not learning lessons from.”