Take Jake? Aussies' biggest World Cup selection call analysed

There are growing calls for Jake Fraser-McGurk to go the Caribbean, despite being uncapped at T20I level. We've broken down both sides of the debate

This time last year, Jake Fraser-McGurk was about to make the move from Melbourne to Adelaide in a bid to kick-start a professional cricket career that had stalled.

For Victoria, he had averaged 18 in first-class cricket and 30 in one-day cricket. For the Melbourne Renegades, his 25 KFC BBL matches had yielded an average of 13 having never passed 40.

Twelve months on, Fraser-McGurk is now one of world cricket's biggest talking points.

The 22-year-old has battered 247 runs from 104 balls in his first five innings in cricket's leading domestic league to spark calls for his inclusion in Australia's T20 World Cup squad to travel to the Caribbean in June.

Here are both sides of the debate being hashed out by fans around the country – and national selectors.

The case for

The IPL is the perfect platform for the World Cup

As it stands, Fraser-McGurk has the highest strike-rate (minimum 50 balls faced) of all time from a single IPL season.

Seven batters have hit a fifty from 15 balls or fewer over the course of 16-and-a-half IPL seasons. Only Fraser-McGurk has done it twice. That’s from a total of five games.

Notwithstanding this season's ballooning scoring rates, they are astonishing feats for a young batter who is on his first trip to India and was overlooked entirely at the IPL auction.

It is easy to discount his success because of the flat pitches but he is now routinely upstaging many of the world's best batters.

And it's not as if he's taking down mugs. In his 18-ball 65 against Hyderabad, every bowler he faced had international experience, including Pat Cummins, who he belted for a four and a six off consecutive deliveries.

Against tournament heavyweights Mumbai, Fraser-McGurk launched sixes off the first balls he faced from Jasprit Bumrah, arguably the game's leading fast bowler, and leg-spinner Piyush Chawla, the third most prolific wicket-taker in IPL history, on the way to 84 off 27.

Other victims have included Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Hardik Pandya and Naveen-ul-Haq.

Former Australia captain Aaron Finch has suggested Fraser-McGurk needs to get better at getting off strike against slow bowling.

But in the IPL, he has been too busy hitting them for six to worry about singles. He has hit all but one of the spinners he has faced so far over the rope.

He hit three consecutive sixes off Krunal Pandya in his debut innings, took 30 off a Washington Sundar over, before taking down Mayank Markande with three more sixes against Hyderabad.

All three of those bowlers have played for India.

Fraser-McGurk has made just two appearances for Australia, and is yet to debut in T20Is, but these matches are of a similar standard to some internationals.

Selection chief George Bailey has suggested as much, insisting last month that "there's no doubt that some strong IPL performances can still sway" World Cup selection.

"The selectors have to be thinking about him now, with the team just a few days away from being selected," ex-Australia skipper Michael Clarke said last week.

"It's hard to leave him out to be honest, the way he's played so far."

He is fearless – but he's not just a slogger

'We just click': Fraser-McGurk on tight bond with batting coach

As Australian fans saw when he made his initial appearance in national colours in February, Fraser-McGurk is far from a nervous starter.

Facing up to Alzarri Joseph at the SCG in his first ball in international cricket, he tried to hit a length ball into next week. He did the same thing in the ensuing ODI in Canberra despite having been dismissed by Joseph in the first over the match in Sydney.

In the IPL, he has doubled down on his breathtaking, hit-out-from-ball-one approach. He hit a six off the second ball he faced in the tournament. In his five innings, he has hit one of his first three deliveries to or over the rope.

Maximising the six-over Powerplay will be a decisive factor at the World Cup, especially when Caribbean pitches wear down from a punishing schedule. The new ball will likely be the best time to bat, making Fraser-McGurk’s style particularly suited.

Box office batting! Fraser-McGurk lights up Manuka

"The way he plays – yes it's high risk, but high risk is high reward – so you have to make sure you put the right structure around them and almost make their performances just the cherry on top on the rest of the side," Finch said on the Willow Talk podcast recently.

"Because when they come off, they win games for your team."

But those who have watched him are quick to point out Fraser-McGurk is not as happy-go-lucky as it may appear.

Finch, who played with Fraser-McGurk at the Melbourne Renegades, raves about his work ethic ("the amount of balls he hits is something that will hold him in great stead going forward"), ex-Windies batter Daren Ganga notes "there’s a method to his stroke play", while those at the Delhi Capitals have been impressed too.

"He is a natural. If you see his set-up, he believes in a stable base. And he has excellent hand speed," Delhi assistant coach Pravin Amre said after Fraser-McGurk's knock against Mumbai.

"But if you see in this game, he played smart cricket. When the bowlers bowled wide, he hit a couple of sixes on the off side also. So he has that ability too, and his shot selection is very good."

He can be a point of difference to – and cover for – Australia's incumbent top-order players

Teams can take 15 players in their World Cup squad and Fraser-McGurk shapes as the most in-form option to be the spare top-order batter, if one is required.

Australia could pick and choose their moments to use him. Perhaps on tougher batting surfaces, Fraser-McGurk's method might be worth a punt against the new ball.

Or they might look at it the other way and look to blood him if they play on the kind of easy-paced surfaces he has thrived on in India. The prospect of unleashing both him and Travis Head against the new ball on a good batting strip is an intriguing prospect.

The Aussies might also need reinforcements. If they go all the way, their last five games will be played in nine days on five different Caribbean islands.

The fitness of their top-order players will also be a consideration. David Warner has been close to indestructible during his long career but he is now 37 and has been nursing a hand injury during the IPL, while Mitch Marsh is currently nursing a tournament-ending hamstring injury.

Both are expected to recover for the World Cup but selectors will undoubtedly want to cover as many bases as possible with their squad.

The case against

He has immense promise, but Australia's top order is set

Fraser-McGurk has thrived in the BBL, the ILT20 and the IPL as an aggressive option in the top three.

But Australia's top-order is settled, with Warner, Head and Marsh the likely first-choice players in those spots. Their credentials are difficult to dispute.

Warner is arguably the country's greatest all-format cricketer and was player of the tournament when the Aussies last won the ICC's showpiece T20 event in 2021.

Marsh is expected to be named captain and has been a revelation since moving to the No.3 spot before the team’s '21 crown. More recently, in eight T20Is over the past 12 months, Marsh has averaged 69 and struck at 170.

Short, Marsh hammer century stand in Durban

Head meanwhile has, like Fraser-McGurk, been on fire in the IPL with 338 runs at a similarly phenomenal strike-rate of 211.25 to cement his reputation as one of the game's most feared batters.

All three were integral in Australia's 50-over World Cup triumph last year.

Australia have more qualified back-up bats

Matthew Short might have watched the last few weeks unfold with some degree of frustration.

The back-to-back reigning BBL player of the season continued training after the Australian domestic season finished with hopes of picking up a replacement spot at the IPL. He played six games as a late pick-up by Punjab last year.

Every six: Short dominates Big Bash with sensational striking

Instead, he's had to watch from afar as Fraser-McGurk thundered into calculations for a World Cup spot Short had previously made a strong case for, most recently when he carted 27 off 11 balls in a rain-affected T20I at Eden Park.

Don't forget Steve Smith here either with the veteran having pushed his case an opener in the BBL, while back-up keeper Josh Inglis has had strong performances up top too. Short, meanwhile, has the additional advantage of being a proven wicket-taker with his off-spin.

While Fraser-McGurk has shown he is no flash in the pan – his IPL exploits were preceded by a breakout BBL campaign – there is a possibility of falling for recency bias when assessing his prospects.

He is not experienced enough, particularly on tougher batting surfaces

Excluding the 2007 World T20 when the format was in its nascent stages at international level, no Australian man has made their debut in an international format at a World Cup since 1987.

Australia have a proud record at major events, largely because they mark the culmination of years of planning for specific roles and well-honed strategies. Players tend not to be brought in at the last minute.

Like most Australian short-form batters making the leap to international cricket (or the IPL), playing spin is an area for improvement for Fraser-McGurk, as noted by Finch.

Caribbean tracks have tended to favour spin, a trend that could be exaggerated by an intense schedule. Australia’s first two matches are in Barbados, two of five in seven days to played at the same venue.

If they make the second round, their first game will be at an Antigua ground hosting its sixth match in 11 days. Their second match will be in St Vincent holding its fourth game in nine days, while their third game is at St Lucia hosting its sixth in nine days.

Fraser-McGurk is undoubtedly set for a significant international career but he still has not played a T20 for Australia. To bring him in for the format's biggest event, held in a region he's never played cricket in and which could prove tough for batters, could be too much, too soon.

2024 ICC Men's T20 World Cup

Australia's Group B fixtures

June 6: v Oman, Kensington Oval, Barbados, 10.30am AEST

June 9: v England, Kensington Oval, Barbados, 3am AEST

June 12: v Namibia, Sir Viv Richards Stadium, Antigua, 10.30am AEST

June 16: v Scotland, Daren Sammy Stadium, St Lucia, 10.30am AEST

Super 8s fixtures TBC

27 June: Semi-final 1, Brian Lara Academy, Trinidad, 10.30am AEST

28 June: Semi-final 2, Providence Stadium, Guyana, 12.30am AEST

30 June: Final, Kensington Oval, Barbados, 12.30am AEST

For the full list of fixtures click here. All matches will be broadcast live on Amazon Prime