Former all-rounder Shane Watson has named Josh Hazlewood as Australia’s current best T20 pacer. Watson admitted that, like many others, he too felt Hazlewood was a Test and one-day bowler. He, however, added that the 31-year-old has shown tremendous improvement in the T20 format over the last couple of years.
Hazlewood made his T20I debut back in 2013, but did not play too many games in the shortest format for the country in subsequent years. However, he had an impressive IPL 2021 campaign for the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) followed by a memorable performance for Australia at the T20 World Cup in the UAE.
The right-arm pacer is now one of the key components of Australia’s T20 squad. Analyzing the fast bowler’s rise in the 20-over format, Watson told Isa Guha on The ICC Review:
“It has been amazing to see Josh Hazlewood’s evolution as a T20 bowler. I always thought he was just a Test and one-day bowler because he didn’t have that many defensive options in T20 cricket, but he has developed tremendously over the past couple of years.”
According to Watson, Hazlewood’s stint with CSK ahead of the T20 World Cup last year played a big role in his success in the ICC tournament. He explained:
“It was a huge opportunity for him to play for CSK (Chennai Super Kings) and they gave him a really good run and let him find his feet in that previous IPL heading into the T20 World Cup. And right now he is Australia’s best T20 fast bowler, there is no question.”
Having been released by CSK ahead of the IPL 2022 season, Hazlewood was purchased by the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) at the auction. He had another good season in IPL 2022, claiming 20 wickets in 12 matches at a strike rate of 13.95.
“He is going to be very important for Australia’s defence of the T20 World Cup” – Watson on Hazlewood
Watson believes that Hazlewood will have a crucial role to play in Australia’s T20 World Cup defence at home later this year. He opined:
“Josh shows that you don’t really have to be able to do something truly different to be a really good T20 bowler. If you are great at really executing your yorkers, your change of pace, but also then your stock ball is at the top of the stumps at good pace, then you can be very effective.
The 40-year-old added:
“He has shown that he has been one of the world’s best over the last couple of years…he is going to be very important for Australia’s defence of the T20 World Cup.”
The Aussies are currently in Sri Lanka for a tour comprising three T20Is, five ODIs and two Tests. The series will begin with the first T20I in Colombo on Tuesday, June 7.