West Indies v Australia T20Is - Men's
Player pull-out sees selectors rethink World Cup plans
Absent stars provide an opportunity for World Cup hopefuls, as Trevor Hohns sounds a warning ahead of the ICC tournament
16 June 2021, 05:28 PM AEST
Australia's selectors had all-but settled on the likely 15-man squad for the T20 World Cup scheduled for later this year, but the decision of seven key players to opt out of the preceding limited-overs tours to the West Indies and Bangladesh could see rivals suddenly stake their claims for places.
And in addition to sounding a warning to those who might have been pencilled-in for the World Cup, selection chair Trevor Hohns claimed there was an expectation players would prioritise national duties ahead of the Indian Premier League scheduled to re-convene in September.
Hohns said the reasons Pat Cummins, David Warner, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Daniel Sams and Marcus Stoinis had chosen to make themselves unavailable for the upcoming white-ball tours were varied and legitimate.
Steve Smith will also miss the series in the Caribbean and Bangladesh – a crucial warm-up for Australia's tilt at a trophy they have never won – due to the recurrence of an elbow he sustained while playing in the IPL earlier this year.
All players have been subject to strict bio-security 'bubble' protocols over the past year, with the IPL players only recently released from mandatory quarantine after returning to Australia from the Maldives when the Indian tournament was suspended last month.
"We're obviously disappointed they made themselves unavailable for this tour, but quite frankly we totally understand and respect their decisions," Hohns said after the squad was announced today.
"It's a little bit frustrating, but at the same time we have to respect, and we do respect and understand the reasons for making themselves unavailable at this time.
"That's out of our control and if a player wishes to make himself unavailable that's his prerogative to do so.
"You can't force them to go on a tour, but what we can say to them is they're giving someone else an opportunity."
The seven players who have opted out of the upcoming tours were all part of the IPL when it began last April, although Kane Richardson departed India before the competition was prematurely shut down in May due to the spike in India's COVID-19 infection rate.
In addition to the planned series against West Indies and Bangladesh, which are still subject to agreement on bio-security arrangements and government approvals, Australia was hoping to finalise their World Cup preparations with a T20 tri-series against West Indies and Afghanistan.
Should that warm-up tournament go ahead, it might potentially clash with the final phase of the IPL which is expected to resume in the UAE from mid-September, and Hohns made it clear where Cricket Australia expected players' priority to lie should that be the case.
"Around that time of the year, I would certainly hope so (that players forego the IPL for national representation)," he said today.
"That would have to be something that's addressed in the future, we haven't looked at that yet and we haven't heard from our players at this stage.
"However, it will certainly depend on their commitments and what we think they should be committing to regarding their Australian commitments at that time."
Hohns said prior to the finalisation of the 18-man touring party for the West Indies and Bangladesh, selectors were "pretty well down the track" in finalising the squad they planned to take to the World Cup, which might also be relocated to the UAE due to the pandemic.
"There may have been one or two positions up for grabs, but we virtually thought we were close to the mark or had a good idea of where we would be going with our T20 World Cup squad," he said.
However, the absence of a number of first-choice players from the touring party due to depart Australia later this month means opportunities have arisen for replacements to not only show their wares, but push for a place in any redrawn World Cup plans.
Of particular interest will be the performances of veteran allrounders Dan Christian and Moises Henriques as well as Mitchell Marsh given the absence of Maxwell and Stoinis who have predominantly filled the batting all-rounders' role in the T20 team over the past year.
In addition, with front-line quicks Cummins, Jhye and Kane Richardson and Sams all missing there are chances for Jason Behrendorff, Andrew Tye and Riley Meredith to state their case for regular inclusion.
Uncapped South Australia fast bowler Wes Agar has also earned his first call-up to a national touring party, while top-order batters Ashton Turner and Ben McDermott have won recalls due to the absence of Warner and Smith.
Hohns said that in addition to providing a useful gauge as to the depth of Australia's playing stocks at international level, the revamped squad offered significant opportunities for players who might otherwise have been overlooked.
He acknowledged the selection process for the upcoming T20 World Cup had therefore become more fluid due to the personnel changes forced upon the selection panel.
"That will be an interesting discussion for us, there's no doubt about that, depending on performances in the West Indies particularly by some of the extra inclusions for this tour," he said.
"If somebody were to really shoot the lights out with the bat or the ball, we'd have to stand up and take notice.
"It is concerning, it would be ideal to have them all together and play as a group and a squad (ahead of the World Cup) but unfortunately we can't.
"In saying that, however, we've got at least half of our (first-choice) squad going to the West Indies and Bangladesh, so a core group will be there, and they will be able to play together."
Qantas Tour of the West Indies 2021
Australia squad: Aaron Finch (c), Ashton Agar, Wes Agar, Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey, Dan Christian, Josh Hazlewood, Moises Henriques, Mitchell Marsh, Ben McDermott, Riley Meredith, Josh Philippe, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, Matthew Wade, Adam Zampa. Travelling reserves: Nathan Ellils, Tanveer Sangha.
West Indies T20 squad: Kieron Pollard (c), Nicholas Pooran (vc), Fabian Allen, Dwayne Bravo, Sheldon Cottrell, Fidel Edwards, Andre Fletcher, Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer, Jason Holder, Akeal Hosein, Evin Lewis, Obed McCoy, Andre Russell, Lendl Simmons, Kevin Sinclair, Oshane Thomas, Hayden Walsh Jr
First T20: July 9, Daren Sammy Stadium, St Lucia, 7.30pm (July 10, 9.30am AEST)
Second T20: July 10, Daren Sammy Stadium, St Lucia, 7.30pm (July 11 9.30am AEST)
Third T20: July 12, Daren Sammy Stadium, St Lucia, 7.30pm (July 13, 9.30am AEST)
Fourth T20: July 14, Daren Sammy Stadium, St Lucia, 7.30pm (July 15, 9.30am AEST)
Fifth T20: July 16, Daren Sammy Stadium, St Lucia, 7.30pm (July 17, 9.30am AEST)
First ODI: July 20, Kensington Oval, Barbados, 2.30pm D/N (July 21, 4.30am AEST)
Second ODI: July 22, Kensington Oval, Barbados, 2.30pm D/N (July 23, 4.30am AEST)
Third ODI: July 24, Kensington Oval, Barbados, 2.30pm D/N (July 25, 4.30am AEST)
* Five-match T20 tour of Bangladesh is yet to be confirmed. Tours are subject to agreement on bio-security arrangements and relevant government approvals.