Former captain Steve Smith and Vice-captain David Warner were on Monday named in Australia’s squad for the Cricket World Cup after completing 12-month suspensions for ball tampering.
Both of them players also regained their Cricket Australia contracts as the country’s new listing of contracted players was announced — less than three weeks after becoming eligible for international selection again after bans imposed for their involvement in the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa last year.
Young batsman Cameron Bancroft, who was suspended for nine months after using sandpaper to alter the condition of the ball in the third test against South Africa in March 2018, has not received a contract.
The 15-man World Cup squad declared on Monday is much more notable for its omissions than the expected inclusion of Smith and Warner.
When banned from international cricket, the pair was still able to play in professional leagues overseas, and Warner has been in outstanding form in the Indian Premier League.
Fast bowler Josh Hazlewood, who has a back injury, and batsman Peter Handscomb have both been omitted from the squad.
In spite of Smith’s return, Australia is going to be captained by Aaron Finch in its World Cup defense, with selectors having flagged which they would continue with the man who has led the country in one-dayers in Smith’s absence.
Handscomb was seen to have a strong case for selection as he averaged more than 40 in 13 matches last year and offers wicketkeeping coverage.
Pacemen Nathan Coulter-Nile and Jason Behrendorff are among the surprise inclusions.
Mitch Marsh, who was Australia’s test vice-captain as recently as October, has been omitted and has lost his CA contract however his brother Shaun Marsh has been retained.
Usman Khawaja who has been Australia’s most prolific batsman in the past year although opening the batting with Finch, may also now be under pressure to hold that position with the return of opening batsman Warner. Khawaja and Finch have averaged 89 in their recent opening stands.
Selection chairman Trevor Hohns claimed selecting the squad involved numerous difficult calls.
“Steve Smith and also David Warner return into the squad ,” he claimed. “Both are world class players and it has been pleasing to see them produce some good form in the IPL.”
Hohns claimed fast bowlers Mitchell Starc and Jhye Richardson have been named subject to fitness.
Hazlewood has been included in two Australia A squads — one for one-day cricket and the other for four-day matches — which will tour England later this year, in a bid to show his fitness ahead of the subsequent Ashes series, also in England.
“Having not played at the highest possible level for some time, we really feel this is going to offer him with the best preparation to obtain certain quality cricket under his belt,” Hohns claimed. “Our concentrate is to have Josh back bowling at his best for the commencement of the big Ashes Tour.”
Australia World Cup squad: Aaron Finch (captain), David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Alex Carey (VC), Pat Cummins (VC), Jhye Richardson, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jason Behrendorff, Adam Zampa, Nathan Lyon.
Cricket Australia’s 2019 contract list: Pat Cummins, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Alex Carey, Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine, James Pattinson, Jhye Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, David Warner, Adam Zampa.