Australian selectors have cited continuity as one of the reasons for naming Steven Smith as captain of the T20 side © Getty Images
Peter Nevill, Ashton Agar and Adam Zampa will make their Twenty20 international debuts at the World T20 in India, while Steven Smith will replace Aaron Finch as captain after Australia’s selectors dramatically shuffled the deck in a final effort to seek a winning combination.
Finch was still chosen in the squad despite his removal as leader, but other recent T20 choices like Matthew Wade, Cameron Boyce and Nathan Lyon were not so fortunate as the panel chaired by Rod Marsh sought to find the right balance to claim a tournament Australia have never won.
In order to take his place in the squad, Finch will have to prove his recovery from a hamstring injury, likewise with Nathan Coulter-Nile (shoulder) and James Faulkner (hamstring). They will be led by Smith, in a move Marsh said had been made to provide much-needed continuity to the T20 team.
“Aaron Finch has done a very good job captaining Australia in T20 cricket,” Marsh said. “He will have benefited enormously from the leadership opportunity and will remain a highly-respected leader within the Australian squad.
“However since he became T20 captain, there has been a broader leadership transition in Test and one-day international cricket with Michael Clarke retiring and Steve Smith assuming the captaincy in Test and one-day cricket.
“We think now is the right time for Steve to lead Australia in all three forms of the game as it offers us important continuity, not only ahead of the World T20, but beyond that tournament as well.”
The selection of Nevill will be welcomed by the likes of Brad Haddin, who had criticised the selectors for not choosing the best gloveman for the T20 team when Wade’s modest place in the batting order indicated that runs were not a major factor in his inclusion. Cameron Bancroft’s inclusion for the last T20 against India at the SCG now appears to have been a one-off experiment.
“We feel our batting depth in this squad is sufficient enough that we can have a specialist wicket-keeper in the squad,” Marsh said. “We want Australia’s best wicket-keeper playing in this tournament and we consider Peter Nevill to be the best in the country right now.”
Boyce and Lyon both have reason to feel miffed at their omissions, particularly as Agar had not figured in Australia’s limited overs team since last year’s tour of England. By contrast, Boyce has been the most consistently chosen T20 spin bowler since late 2014, and eight wickets at 19.00 with an economy rate of 6.60 from seven games is a strong return.
Lyon, meanwhile, bowled one over in a T20 for Australia against India last month, the smallest possible sample size. Zampa was chosen for the Chappell-Hadlee series in New Zealand as a way for the selectors to view him at international level, and his two skilful displays were enough to earn him a berth.
“Given the conditions we are likely to face in India, we wanted to have a number of different spinning options available to us,” Marsh said. “Ashton Agar, Adam Zampa and Glenn Maxwell give us plenty of flexibility in the slow-bowling department which is incredibly important in this format.”
The inclusions of Nevill, Agar, Zampa and Coulter-Neil bring to 23 the number of players the selectors have included in various T20 squads over the past three weeks. After the two Tests in New Zealand, Australia have a three-match T20 series in South Africa before travelling to India for the ICC event.
Australia also named the Southern Stars squad for the Women’s World T20 to be played concurrently. “We’ve got a number of options covered with our bowling attack as well as several batters who can produce the attacking game-style we want to play,” chairman of selectors Shawn Flegler said.
The Southern Stars fly to New Zealand on February 18 for an ODI and T20 series ahead of their trip to India.
Men’s squad: Steve Smith (capt), David Warner, Ashton Agar, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Aaron Finch, John Hastings, Josh Hazlewood, James Faulkner, Usman Khawaja, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Peter Nevill (wk), Andrew Tye, Shane Watson, Adam Zampa
Women’s squad: Meg Lanning (capt), Alex Blackwell, Kristen Beams, Lauren Cheatle, Sarah Coyte, Rene Farrell, Holly Ferling, Grace Harris, Alyssa Healy (wk) Jess Jonassen, Beth Mooney, Erin Osborne, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Elyse Villani.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo