Behrendorff hopes towering 12-month run translates to T20 World Cup ticket

Australia

Again fit and firing, and coming off an eye-catching year where he enjoyed a breakout IPL season, left-arm quick Jason Behrendorff hopes his success on slower surfaces will prove alluring as the national hierarchy contemplate Australia’s squad for the T20 World Cup.

Behrendorff will be pushing his selection case in the upcoming three-match T20I series against West Indies starting on Friday in Hobart. He is one of four quicks in Australia’s squad with Behrendorff likely to play in two of the matches, including game three at Optus Stadium in what will be his first international appearance on his home ground.

“There’s probably going to be a bit of rotation [with the quicks],” Behrendorff told reporters in Perth. “Anytime you get to play cricket for Australia in a World Cup year… it’s a great opportunity to put your name up. I’m really happy that I’m involved in the squad. Hopefully, I can continue to play some good cricket.”

Behrendorff, 33, has long been identified as an appealing option for Australia. Towering at 6 foot 4, Behrendorff generates an awkward bounce and can swing the ball sharply. Behrendorff was once considered a potential Test replacement for Mitchell Johnson, but constant back issues meant he had to focus on the shorter formats.

He has not played a first-class match since late 2017, but continually starred, over the years, for BBL powerhouse Perth Scorchers and for Western Australia in the 50-over Marsh Cup.

Behrendorff occasionally played white-ball cricket for Australia and memorably claimed a five-wicket haul at Lord’s during the 2019 World Cup, where he ripped through eventual champions England in a 64-run Australia victory.

But Behrendorff’s body constantly betrayed him and he appeared to be overtaken by a slew of emerging quicks, including state team-mates Jhye Richardson and Lance Morris.

As he entered his 30s, there were fears that Behrendorff might have missed his chance but he’s been able to stay on the park for the last couple of years leading to a revival at the international level.

“I’ve had a decent run at just playing cricket and staying on the park, so I’ve been able to develop my game and just get that consistency,” he said. “That was the thing with those injuries from 24 to 29, I played maybe six months out of every 12.

“Hopefully I can really tack that [years] onto the back end of my career and play as much as I possibly can into my late 30s.”

After an impressive IPL season with Mumbai Indians, where he claimed 14 wickets in 12 matches, Behrendorff last September ended a two-year international absence when he took 2 for 25 in a T20I against South Africa in Durban.

He subsequently was a standout for Australia during the now-forgotten T20I series against India in the immediate aftermath of the World Cup. In uncompromising conditions for quicks, Behrendorff was outstanding in four matches with 6 wickets at 17.83 and an economy rate of 6.68.

Behrendorff had an epic performance of 1 for 12 in four overs, including 17 dots, to defy the conditions in Guwahati as India racked up 222 for 3 in game three.

He was a constant threat with the new ball in trademark fashion but also showed his prowess at bowling through different phases in the innings as he unfurled his repertoire of canny slower balls, cutters and yorkers. It led to Behrendorff recently being named Australia’s T20I player of the year.

“I played four out of five games and there were short turnarounds, so that was really a big confidence boost for me in terms of getting on the park day after day,” Beherendorff said. “I was able to execute my skills, that was the biggest thing for me.

“It was a great learning opportunity for me and getting to bowl in different phases of the innings in an international match.”

The slower surfaces in India are somewhat similar to the pitches in the Caribbean, where Australia will be entirely based at the T20 World Cup also co-hosted by the United States.

Australia haven’t toured the Caribbean often in the past decade, but Behrendorff did play two T20Is in Saint Lucia in 2021. Australia will travel there to play Scotland in a group fixture on June 15.

“It was an amazing experience to play over there…get used to those sorts of wickets which are a bit different,” he said. “Some of them are similar to what we faced in India in recent times.

“So I guess drawing on that bank of knowledge, knowing what I do really well but also adapt to those conditions and the size of the grounds [if he plays].”

While he waits for his T20 World Cup fate, Behrendorff will soon return to Mumbai as he looks to build on last season’s IPL campaign.

“It’s an exciting period with Hardik Pandya coming back and it’s going to be a great feel around that group again,” he said. “Hopefully we can get back up towards the top of the table.”

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth

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