The impeccable transformation of Josh Hazlewood to evolve as Australia’s unicorn across formats

Initially, Josh Hazlewood was only considered one of the integral members of Australia’s fearsome pace trio for Test cricket, alongside Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc. But now, the 196cm frame has left behind his fellow compatriots and has become the country’s number one fast bowler across formats.

Josh Hazlewood, a master at milking good form, demonstrated his prowess to the Sri Lankan spectators in the recently-concluded T20I series. The talismanic fast bowler was adjudged Player of the Match for his excellent figures of 4-0-16-4 and followed it with 4-0-16-0 in the second. At one point in the third and final game at Pallekele, his bowling figures read 3-1-3-2 until Dasun Shanaka came in and pulled off a heist for Sri Lanka by plundering a record 59 runs off the last three overs.

Yet, Hazlewood finished as the highest wicket-taker of the series, with six scalps at an average of 9.5 and an economy rate of an astonishing 4.75.

It was not the first time Hazlewood was doing wonders in white-ball cricket. In IPL 2022, the 31-year-old ended the campaign as the second-highest wicket-taker for Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) after Wanindu Hasaranga, with 20 strikes in 12 matches at 8.11. His previous stint with Chennai Super Kings (CSK) was impressive (12 wickets in as many games) but was not as resounding as he has been in RCB colours.

Without a doubt, RCB’s every penny of INR 7.75 crore, which they splurged on Hazlewood at the mega auction, yielded rich dividends. But Hazlewood’s IPL contract at CSK came largely due to his impressive stint with Sydney Sixers in BBL 2019-20, where he helped them to win the title. “I could see a couple of World Cups coming up in T20 cricket and wanted to poke my nose back in at the IPL, so I jumped in for the Sixers,” Hazlewood explained, as quoted by ESPNCricinfo.

“[It was] probably that period where I made a conscious effort to get back into T20. It was so hard before that with logistical [issues], tours were overlapping, and you had to pick and choose what you wanted to play for Australia. Took that opportunity to play the Big Bash and that led to playing for Chennai and I ended up playing more and more games as time went on…then here we are.

“It’s a strange one, I guess. I’ve obviously missed a fair bit of red-ball cricket through injury and selection so, a little bit disappointing in that regard. Then the white-ball, T20 in particular, has gone strength to strength. That’s the benefit of having three formats in this sport. If you are struggling in one, or not going particularly well, then you can rely on another one to come through.”

Josh Hazlewood’s bowling records across formats:

Tests | 107 Innings | 215 Wickets | 25.92 Average | Strike Rate 56.9

ODIs | 55 Innings | 93 Wickets | 25.08 Average | 4.71 Economy Rate

T20Is | 30 Innings | 46 Wickets | 18.02 Average | 7.22 Economy Rate

T20s | 82 Innings | 112 Wickets | 20.59 Average | 7.39 Economy Rate

Hazlewood is 196 cm tall, and he has been getting the benefits for his height whenever he tries to extract steep bounce. He had got impeccable control and movement before, and now, he has been doing the same in ODIs and T20Is as well. The ability of bowling at consistent line and length is easily his biggest weapon.

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.”

Shane Watson on Josh Hazlewood at The ICC Review.

When Hazlewood made his debut in December 2014, he was primarily considered Australia’s one for the future in the pace attack, but only for Test cricket. During the early stages of his international career, he was often compared with his idol, Glenn McGrath, for similar bowling actions and more importantly, for making debuts at the same age. But Hazlewood did not seem to be affected by the unwanted comparison and took only 46 innings to get 100 Test wickets. His idol took an innings fewer than him.

Hazlewood has been a key factor in Australia’s recent success (currently No. 1) in Test cricket. He was the second-best bowler in Tests once and is now placed at the tenth, with 752 ratings. But his determination to transform himself into a T20 specialist was always been there. Look at him now. He is more of a T20I bowler than a Test spearhead.

Riding on his stupendous form in the shortest format of the game, Hazlewood recently jumped to second place in the ICC T20I bowlers’ rankings, only behind Tabraiz Shamsi. Since January 2021, he has become a regular member of Australia’s T20I setup. During this period, he has claimed 37 wickets in 21 matches, conceding just 6.33 runs an over. Of them, 11 wickets came in the last T20 World Cup, where Australia emerged as the world champions for the first time.

Not to forget, Hazlewood ranks third in ICC ODI bowlers’ rankings, behind Trent Boult and Chris Woakes. It is a rare feat for any bowler to find a place among the top ten across all three formats, and the talismanic Australian is the one who has done that. He is only getting better and better with time and will be keen to keep up the good work going in the five-match ODI series against Sri Lanka, starting from June 14, and then in the two-match Test series.

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