How Daniel Christian has wrestled his way back to ‘fill’ the missing piece of the Australian puzzle

It was only in 2009 that the American rapper Pitbull started calling himself ‘Mr. Worldwide’ but the reality remains that, Australian all-rounder Daniel Christian was a Mr. Worldwide even before the term became famous. At the age of 38, Christian has wrestled his way back into the Australian setup.

Hampshire in 2010, South Australia in 2011, Brisbane Heat in 2013, Notts Outlaws in 2017, Trinbago Knight Riders in 2017, Jozi Stars in 2018, Melbourne Renegades in 2019, Notts Outlaws in 2020 and Sydney Sixers in 2021. These are not just the winners of their respective leagues in those years but the franchises where Daniel Christian has won T20 titles. 

The New South Welsh all-rounder Christian is not just a certified globe-trotter but a serial winner in the shortest format, having won trophies all over the world, with the exception of India, of course. But in between his return to the IPL and his IPL debut, in 2011, he has won the T20 Blast and in the Big Bash League, with the Sydney Sixers. 

What remains constant, however, is his performance on all the sides, with his impact remaining indelible, with the bat and the ball. Having played 350 T20 games, Christian has amassed 5174 runs, at an average of 23.62 and a strike rate of 139.83 and also picked up a total of 259 wickets with the ball, averaging just 28.71. 

So what has really forced his return to the Australian setup? In the absence of several stars, the Australian management recalled the 38-year-old, who last played in an Australian jersey, in 2017, against India in Ranchi. Since then, he has made a mark for himself in global T20 leagues, where his lusty hitting, combined with his big-brain bowling and his fielding, has made his name stand out in the Australian squad, with head coach Justin Langer confirming that he is set to return to the playing XI, for the first T20I. 

Since his last appearance in 2017, Christian has averaged 34, 21.7, 22.1 and 29.6 in the shortest format but all of them coming at a healthy strike rate of 151.75, that’s where he stands out from the rest. While Moises Henriques has made his comeback, on the back of his performance at the top of the order, Christian’s comeback is stunning in all sorts, especially considering how niche his role is in any T20 setup. 

As Dinesh Karthik has mentioned in the past, a finisher’s role is often a very dedicated and delicate position in any T20 setup, which clearly distinguishes between a good T20 side and proven winners. Christian clearly fits the bill, with his batting appearances coming at No.5 and 6, where he has batted 71 times, averaging 27, while scoring at a strike rate of 146, which matters.

Furthermore, since 2018, he has maintained an average of 31.8 with the bat, and a strike rate of 150.2, which shows that clearing the boundary is the last of his concern. In the same time frame, across T20 leagues in the world, only six players have stood out with their batting performance. 

Andre Russell, Kieron Pollard, Daniel Christian, David Wiese, Ravi Bopara and Mohammad Nabi (in that order) have left a real impact on how the format is perceived. Surprisingly, all of them also bowl, which makes them a must-have in any T20 setup. So Australia, a side, which has perennially struggled with finishers, even though they have had several years, 14 years since the first edition to be precise, have failed to realise the niche of the position.

So what can Christian do?

Since Jan 1, 2018, in 69 T20 appearances, the right-handed batsman has scored 1208 runs, off just 746 deliveries, at an average of 30.20 and a strike rate of 161.93 with two 50s. What is incredible about that is the fact that has the third-best average among finishers in T20 cricket in the last three years, in overs 14-20, where more often than not, T20 games are decided. 

However, Australia, in the same time frame, has just scored 812 runs during overs 14-20, ranked sixth-best in world cricket, behind all major countries, in the form of India, New Zealand, Pakistan, England and West Indies. Remarkably, Australia’s strike rate in world cricket, in the shortest format is just 35th best in the world, even below the likes of the Netherlands, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Kenya, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates, to name a few. 

In the recent past, the Australian team had to deal with the likes of Mitchell Marsh, Marcus Stoinis, Pat Cummins and Ashton Agar to get the runs in those overs. However, that not being of great success, Christian’s credentials fall right in place, for the national team to adopt. While not just that, Australia’s struggle with the ball, in situations has also hurt them where the front-line bowlers have to bear all the brunt. 

With the 38-year-old in the lineup, he offers a two-dimensional solution, both in the middle-overs, with the bat and the ball. While his economy rate may be on the higher side, Christian knows a thing or two in regards to picking up crucial wickets, with 41 wickets in the overs 12-16, where often T20 games are hanging on the fine balance. While he isn’t known to be a superstar in the death, Australia wouldn’t mind an option, especially considering it is coming at an average of 25 and a strike rate of 14.6, with 30% of his deliveries being dot balls.

Shouldn’t any other all-rounder be able to do that?

In technicality, yes, all all-rounders must be able to put up a similar display, however, the lack of one has imminently hurt Australia for the longest time, which makes Christian a mainstream option and not a far-left or right option. What was more interesting, was Langer’s comments in the aftermath of his statement on Christian, the possibility of the national team employing a 7-4 system.

Langer, a fearsome leader and more than that, a firm believer in the 6-5 system, has openly stated that with Christian, there is a chance that the Australian team could adapt their system to a more 7-4 model, which would allow for Aaron Finch to have plenty of options to operate, with the bat and the ball. 

“But you also if you look ahead: 1, to what we’re looking to, two, the little bits of the jigsaw puzzle we’re looking to solve or complete. We might look at this 7-4 model, where you have a couple of all-rounders. Different teams do it differently around the world. It’s a great opportunity for us over here,” Langer said.

Australia, in the death overs, with the bat, are not the most formidable of sides, with just 1322 runs, at an average of 18.89 and a strike rate of 154.26. The fact that Christian has himself averaged 21.8 with the bat and has struck at 165.6, including 181.4 in T20s this year, his inclusion in the side would bring about an end to the major problem that has shoe-strung itself at the top of their heads in the shortest format. 

He might very well be the messiah that Langer and the management had hoped for, in a year where they could put themselves right back into the contention for bagging the World T20 title. And for the New South Wales-born all-rounder, it is a righteous comeback, which he has wrestled for in an attempt to fill the missing Australian piece of the puzzle.

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