Australia pace bowler Josh Hazlewood's success in the Indian Premier League (IPL) over the last couple of seasons has prompted the country's former great Shane Watson to say that the tall quick has evolved into one of the best T20 bowlers, and that he should be given a place in the national side in the shortest format of the game on a consistent basis.
Hazlewood has had successful seasons with Chennai Super Kings (2021) and Royal Challengers Bangalore (2022), and in between he came up with a superb performance in the ICC T20 World Cup in the UAE, which Australia won.
Watson, the former Australian all-rounder, admitted on Tuesday that Hazlewood's rise as a T20 bowler had caught him by surprise. While the 31-year-old Hazlewood made his T20 debut for his country in 2013, he was overlooked for a spot in Australia's 20-over side for four years as he was branded a Test and one-day bowler.
But Hazlewood's success of late has seen his T20 bowling stocks rise. "It has been amazing to see Josh Hazlewood's evolution as a T20 bowler," Watson said on The ICC Review. "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.
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."
Watson expects Hazlewood to play a major role in Australia's T20 World Cup defence on home soil in October-November this year. "Josh shows that you don't really have to be able to do something truly different to be a really good T20 bowler," Watson said.
"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. "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."
Watson said Hazlewood can form a formidable fast-bowling partnership with left-armer Mitchell Starc and Test skipper Pat Cummins at the T20 World Cup. He also backed Cummins to perform well in Australian conditions despite his form at the IPL for Kolkata Knight Riders.
"The Australian conditions will suit him more than in India because the wickets there are a little bit slower, so his length the ball does sit up a little bit more," Watson noted in the ICC Review. "Whereas in Australia that back of a length does skip through more, so he is going to be more effective in Australia.
"To be able to play any World Cup at home you are going to be jumping out of your skin to play, so I am sure he will be one of Australia's best bowlers during that tournament."