Allrounder Shane Watson has identified ICC World Twenty20 hosts India as Australia’s biggest threat ahead of next month’s tournament.
India are set to be a formidable opponent in their own backyard, with the Aussies scheduled to take on the home side in their final group match in Mohali on March 27.
Watson, who has extensive experience in India having played in all but one edition of the Indian Premier League, praised both India’s batting and bowling depth and sees MS Dhoni’s men as a major hurdle for Australia.
Watch: Watson's unbeaten 124 against India in T20
"I think India will be the toughest team because it’s in their home conditions," Watson told cricket.com.au from Dubai, where he is playing in the inaugural Pakistan Super League. “They know their conditions better than anyone and have performed well in big events at home.
"India have a good all-round team; their batting has firepower all the way through, bowling-wise, their spinners are world-class and they have some good quicks.
"Ashish Nehra is bowling really well and (Jasprit) Bumrah has been a great find for them. They have a really well balanced team so I think they will be a big challenge."
India have the wood over Australia in the shortest format recently, having won 3-0 away from home in last month’s KFC T20 INTL series.
Australia tried 19 different players in that series, but only nine made it into their 15-man World T20 squad that was named yesterday.
A particular headache for the Australian selectors is how they plan to fit Watson, David Warner, Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja into their top-order, with all arguably at their best when opening the batting.
Watson has statistically fared much better opening the batting in T20s for Australia. He averages 35 with a strike-rate of 154 when opening the batting, compared to his average of 15 and strike-rate of 119 when he’s batted elsewhere.
However, the others have all made strong cases to take on the new ball in the World T20. Khawaja has forced his way into the squad through superb performances opening in the KFC Big Bash League, striking two tons and two half-centuries in four innings for champions Sydney Thunder.
Watch: Khawaja scored 70 in the BBL Final
Finch is the No.2 ranked T20 batsman in the world, averaging 42 with a strike-rate of 151 in T20Is while Warner is the vice-captain and is considered a lock for one of the opening positions.
With all this in mind, Watson said that he is willing to go with what the Australian selectors and captain Steve Smith consider is their best combination at the top of the order.
"I’m not sure where I’m going to bat in the upcoming T20 World Cup," Watson said. "We have a number of world-class opening batsmen with Finch, Khawaja, and Warner.
"(Whatever) the makeup of the team, we’re going to be a very strong batting line-up, there’s no doubt about that.
"We’re just going to have to fit in with what works best for the team."
- with Louis Cameron