Australia became the second team to announce their squad for the 10-nation ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019, to be held in England and Wales.
Steve Smith and David Warner made their expected returns to the national side after serving out their respective year-long bans.
But some other veterans were left out, while a couple of exciting young talents also missed the flight to England. At the end of it, what were the biggest talking points? Who were the big gainers and losers? And what does it say about the future of Australian cricket? Let’s dive in.
Peter Handscomb isn’t first in line yet
In perhaps the most surprising omission from the squad, Handscomb was left out despite a stellar 2019, in which he has averaged 43.54 and struck at close to 100. Handscomb was one of the lynchpins of Australia’s series win in India. His 117 in Mohali paved the way for Australia’s highest successful ODI chase ever.
Handscomb can also serve as a back-up wicket-keeper. But with an endless supply of top-order batsmen, with Usman Khawaja and Aaron Finch in the form of their lives, and David Warner returning after a year-long absence, Handscomb’s tremendous start to 2019 went unrewarded.
Josh Hazlewood is a long-format bowler
The fast bowler has been battling a back injury that has kept him out of cricket since the home Test series against India. There were murmurs abound that Hazlewood was likely to be preserved for the Ashes series later in the summer, and they turned out to be true.
Hazlewood’s omission goes beyond fitness reasons as he has been named in the Australia A squad for the tour of England. Since the 2015 World Cup final against New Zealand, Hazelwood has played a mere 31 ODIs, all while being an integral member of Australia’s Test attack.
Explaining his omission, Trevor Hohns, the chairman of selectors said that their focus is on having Hazlewood ready for the Ashes, and it is clear that he doesn’t figure prominently in Australia’s white-ball plans for now.
A long time coming for Nathan Lyon
It has taken a while coming, but Nathan Lyon is finally set to make his maiden appearance at the World Cup. Lyon has for long been Australia’s go-to wicket-taker in Tests. In fact, he is Australia’s most successful spinner after Shane Warne in Test cricket. However his ODI career has never fully taken flight, with 25 appearances over seven years. He was trumped by Xavier Doherty in Australia’s squad for the home World Cup in 2015.
But, after consistently winning Test matches for Australia around the world, he has in recent times got opportunities in the one-day squad. While Adam Zampa's leg-spin might still be their first choice – he is their leading wicket-taker this year, with 18 scalps – Lyon experience will be a useful facet.
Mitchell Marsh faces a long climb back
In September 2018, Mitchell Marsh was named joint vice-captain of the Australian Test team, along with Hazlewood. Today, he neither finds a place in Australia’s World Cup squad, nor in their annual list of contracted players for 2019-20.
Marsh was picked for the Boxing Day Test against India, but returned 19 runs across two innings and went wicketless after 26 overs. He was subsequently dropped and played no further part in Australia’s home summer. Marsh also hasn’t turned out in ODI colours for his country since January 2018.
He will have a chance to regain the selectors’ faith as he has been named in the A squad for both the one-day and four-day games. But with Australia suddenly boasting a rich pool of all-rounders, with Marcus Stoinis and Glenn Maxwell in top form, and several other youngsters, such as Handscomb and Ashton Turner pressing for selection, Marsh faces a tough road back.
Australia need to go out of the way to protect Alex Carey
In a stunning move, Australia named a lone specialist wicket-keeper in their squad of 15 for the World Cup. It means that not only does Alex Carey have to shoulder the ‘keeping responsibilities all by himself, but he will also have to take extra care to make sure he doesn’t injure himself.
Changes to the squad in the event of injury can be effected with the approval of the ICC’s event technical committee, and Australia do have back-up in the form of Travis Head, Matthew Wade and Handscomb, who are all part of the A squad that will also be in England. But Australia cannot turn to any of those players should injury strike in the immediate hours leading up to a match.
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