Former Australian captain Lisa Sthalekar is urging Australia to continue trusting their "fearless" approach with the bat even if superstar Ellyse Perry remains down the order, as fresh doubts emerge over the host nation's ability to deal with the World Cup hype.
Questions are being raised over Australia's game plan after they came worryingly close to bowing out of the tournament in straight sets in Perth, with many wondering why Perry is batting so low.
It has been far from a smooth start to the campaign for Meg Lanning's side, whose margin for error has narrowed despite opening their account against Sri Lanka on Monday night.
The Australians remain odds-on favourites with the bookies to claim their fifth World Cup but their form has been unconvincing, with big three Meg Lanning, Alyssa Healy and Perry well down by their usual standards with the bat.
Patchy for state and country this year, Healy and Lanning have shown signs they may be turning the corner but Perry is yet to fire – though opportunities have not been plentiful.
Ellyse Perry has batted at six and seven in Australia’s first two games of the World Cup.Credit:AAP
The face of the national women's team, Perry has come in at six and seven in the opening two games. She was dismissed for a duck in game one and hit the winning runs with her unbeaten five against Sri Lanka after coming to the crease in the 19th over.
Sthalekar, a four-time World Cup winner, does not think Mott and his brains trust have erred in their use of Perry as she believes the incumbents in the top order are better equipped to execute Australia's aggressive ballistic tactics in the powerplay.
The three-time Belinda Clark Medallist is Australia's sixth leading run-scorer in the shortest format and sits atop the WBBL runs chart.
However, Healy, Beth Mooney, Ash Gardner and Lanning, who bat in Australia's top four, all boast vastly superior WBBL strike rates to Perry's 105.5. It has only been in the past two editions of the WBBL that Perry has struck at better than a run ball.
"The thing is your regular viewer sees her opening for the Sydney Sixers and she peels off a lot of runs. What they won't know is this Australian side have agreed to play an aggressive mentality up the top because they have the depth," Sthalekar said.
"They want players who are striking at 130+, which is what Healy, Mooney, Gardner do. It's about getting that balance right and also because of the right- left-hand combinations. They want to continue that because bowlers will struggle to get their line right which is something that has always been done in cricket."
While Perry would offer a steadying influence if she batted in the top four, Sthalekar wants Australia to stay true to their bold tactics, which delivered them success in the Caribbean in 2018.
"I like the way they've got the order. People who want to play it safe will certainly go down that avenue," Sthalekar said.
"T20 cricket in the first six overs with only two fielders out, you want to maximise your runs, inflict as much damage as you can.
"Ellyse Perry is not going to do that. She'll bat through the powerplay, bat through and explode at the 15th over. If you give Perry 30 balls, she'll score you 35. You give Healy 30 balls she'll score you 55. What would you prefer?
"People who want to play a safe T20 game will go down the Perry avenue … [but] Ellyse Perry isn't necessarily going to win you matches off her own stick, she needs to go with someone else."
Former great and Cricket Australia board member Mel Jones believes Australia are being weighed down by the expectations that come with being the hot favourites at a home World Cup.
Australia have long maintained they will embrace the pressure – but their early results suggest it has had a negative impact.
"We need a bit of a magic wand to try and alleviate all the stresses as quickly as possible," Jones, a two-time World Cup winner, said on SEN.
All-rounder Nicola Carey described the win over Sri Lanka as a relief. "Every game's really crucial," she said. "To get that on one out of the way, hopefully it give us lots of confidence going into the next couple of games."
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