Australia’s selectors will consider resting David Warner, Steven Smith, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood ahead of the Tests against India and they appear likely to enter that series without a first-class match under their belts as the management try to strike a balance between game time and the well-being of players moving from one bubble to another.
Those four players have been included in Australia’s 18-man squad for the six limited-overs matches which begin on November 27, but they are also certainties for the Test side and there is an understanding that gaps will need to be created for them to spend some time away from hub life. Mitchell Starc and Matthew Wade, who will both begin their home summer in the Sheffield Shield on Friday, have been given time off in recent weeks.
Two Australia A matches were included in the India tour schedule announced on Wednesday, one which overlaps the T20I series and then a day-night game at the SCG ahead of the pink-ball Test in Adelaide.
National selector Trevor Hohns indicated that some of Australia’s Test squad – which will be named towards the end of the Sheffield Shield matches in Adelaide next month – could feature for Australia A but he said it would be unlikely that Warner, Smith, Cummins or Hazlewood would play, which would means them starting the Tests without a competitive long-format game since January.
“Once they return from the IPL and get through their quarantine, I think it will be prudent for them to start preparing for red-ball cricket. That may or may not be in that Australia A game – more than likely it won’t be,” Hohns said.
That quartet were part of the tour to England in September then went straight to the IPL. Warner, Smith and Cummins have been ever-present for their franchises and while Hazlewood has only had a handful of games it is not only the physical shape of the players that will be monitored.
“We are very mindful of managing our players and trying at some stage to get them some time at home with their families,” Hohns said. “Of course, Test cricket is very important so there may be other times when we can give our players that play every format in particular a little bit of a break.
“That’s something that will be addressed in the coming weeks and we’ll be having discussions with those players to see how they are feeling. Their health and well-being is the priority No. 1 and we want to do whatever we can to get the best out of them for the Test series.”
Starc, who quarantined for 14 days in Adelaide after the England tour and is now in the Sheffield Shield hub in the same city, albeit one that allows a bit more freedom than the tightly controlled biosecure bubbles, said that while cricketers are used to long tours and time away this season would be a challenge.
“For guys who will be around hubs and bubbles for the majority of the summer it’s going to an important one to keep an eye on, obviously guys with families and kids which will make things even more difficult. It’s going to be a long time. The guys coming back from the IPL, they’ve been on the road a while already and they’ll have their quarantine then straight into a white-ball hub.
“Likewise, for a few of us here we haven’t had too many days at home, I’ve only had 30 hours at home since August, so it will be important to be adaptable, be flexible but at the same time we are there to win games for Australia.”
When asked if the views of the host broadcaster for the limited-overs matches would be considered around big-name stars being rested, Hohns said: “We take everything into account, but their health and well-being is a priority for us.”
The challenge coming up for the players is highlighted by the fact that the first ODI on November 27 comes just two days after those coming from the UAE will have completed their quarantine, which means the Australians will only gather as a full squad on the eve of the series.
Hohns remained hopeful that it might be possible for some movement between international and BBL bubbles to enable players not in the Test XI to keep playing cricket but conceded it could prove too difficult.
“We’ll have a look at any players we might be able to release to Big Bash. It will be harder [than normal], but team management are working through that and seeing what we can and can’t do. It would be ideal, but at the moment nothing is ideal so we have to go with the flow and work on things as they crop up.”
Source: ESPN Crickinfo