It is almost decision time for Australia ahead of the World Cup, but that squad is not the only news that will be released next week with plenty of players hoping for a call from the selectors.
How many announcements are expected next week?
It is expected that Cricket Australia will make a raft of announcements on Monday, April 15 including naming the contract list for 2019-20, the 2019 World Cup 15-man squad, as well as the Australia A limited-overs and four-day squads that will tour England in June and July.
That’s a lot of players…
There will be 15 players in the World Cup squad as well as possibly another 15 or so in the Australia A white-ball squad in England in late June for five 50-over games. The Australia A red-ball squad will assemble in early July just after the conclusion of the World Cup and will feature a number of players from both white-ball squads plus some additional long-form specialists and perhaps some young players with an eye towards the future. There is an Australia versus Australia A four-day game in Southampton on July 23 that will require a minimum of 24 players. The Ashes squad is slated to be formally announced after the conclusion of that game, just five days out from the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston on August 1.
Why so late for the Ashes squad?
The selectors want the opportunity to pick players after seeing the performances on the Australia A tour and potentially county cricket. For the two previous Ashes tours the squad was selected and named more than two months out from the tour. A wider squad will be picked on Monday well in advance of the first Test in August but it gives the selectors the flexibility to add players depending on form and fitness.
Remind me where we are with the World Cup squad
The selection panel of Trevor Hohns, Greg Chappell and Justin Langer met in Perth on Tuesday to finalise the squad for the World Cup as well as discuss the Australia A squads. The World Cup squad will almost certainly be picked from the squad that toured India and the UAE for 10 ODIs in February and March as well as previously suspended duo Steven Smith and David Warner, and injured fast bowlers Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood. It is unlikely than any player outside of the 15 who toured India and UAE plus those four will come into the World Cup mix.
So what’s the toughest decision for the selectors?
There are two areas of contention. The batting is the toughest issue to solve. The inclusion of Warner and Smith means there are surplus to requirements in the top four. Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh on recent performance have every right to remain in the side but Warner and Smith are proven world-class players and World Cup winners. What it will mean is Ashton Turner misses out but they will lose a freakish power-hitting finisher at the expense of having six batsmen who are all top-four specialists, none of whom possess Turner’s late-over hitting ability.
The bowling is less complicated despite the number of quality options. Starc, if fit, will likely replace Jason Behrendorff as a like for like. Jhye Richardson‘s fitness may be an issue depending on his recovery from a dislocated shoulder. The other debate surrounds Hazlewood’s inclusion. He could well be left out in order to preserve his body for the Ashes. The wicket-keeping spot is unlikely to be up for debate. Alex Carey looks set to be the No.1 with Peter Handscomb only to be used in the case of injury.
Who had central contracts in 2018-19?
The initial list, not including players who qualified for upgrades during the year was: Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Aaron Finch, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, Shaun Marsh, Mitch Marsh, Tim Paine, Matthew Renshaw, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Billy Stanlake, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis and Andrew Tye.
Who might miss out this time?
Smith and Warner are almost certain to be contracted after missing out last year due to suspension although the interest will be at what level. Renshaw did not represent Australia in a single international in the contract period so he is unlikely to keep his contract. Mitchell Marsh was named the Test vice-captain last year but lost his place in all three forms. Agar, Tye and Stanlake were out of favour by the end of the summer, although Agar missed a lot of cricket through injury and Tye was called up to the India ODI tour as cover for Kane Richardson. But Zampa has become an automatic selection in Australia’s limited-overs teams and would almost certainly be added while Peter Siddle and James Pattinson could become integral parts of Australia’s England plans, and Pattinson is a tantalising prospect long-term given he is seemingly back to full fitness.
The other issue is whether the Test specialists will be rewarded given there were fewer Tests in this contract period than previously. Marcus Harris played all six Tests over the summer and appears a certainty for the Ashes squad at the very least. Joe Burns and Kurtis Patterson made Test hundreds in their last Test appearance against Sri Lanka while Marnus Labuschagne also played in five of Australia’s eight Tests over the last contract period.
Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Melbourne
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