National selection chief George Bailey has no doubt Aaron Finch remains the right man to lead Australia’s T20 World Cup defence as his usual opening partner David Warner was once again rested from white-ball duties for the tour of Pakistan.
Fast bowlers Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood were also left out of a 16-man squad which Bailey said was a “real challenge” to put together as he weighed up immediate needs over planning for the T20 World Cup this year and 50-over World Cup in 2023.
Bailey said it wasn’t a “black and white” situation with Warner, Cummins and Hazlewood being able to miss the Australian games before heading to the Indian Premier League to take up million-dollar franchise contracts.
Warner in particular has not played in coloured clothing for Australia since he was named player of the tournament in the T20 World Cup. He missed tours of Bangladesh and the West Indies last year before the tournament, as did Cummins, after playing in the IPL.
The T20 World Cup was also Warner’s only limited overs games for Australia since a one-day series against India in November, 2020.
Cricket Australia won’t release IPL-bound players until April 6, the start of their leave period and Bailey said while they wanted them available for their country for “as long as possible” it was a constant management process.
“One of the things we are really keen to ensure is we have our best Australian players playing for Australia for as long as possible, medium and longer term,” Bailey said.
“So we are constantly working with them around their own personal situations to make sure they get what they need and we can continue to get what we need.
“The NSP will continue to be quite pragmatic about how we approach each series.”
With Glenn Maxwell also missing the tour as he’s getting married before heading to the IPL, Test all-rounder Cameron Green gets in to the squad with a view to the 2023 World Cup.
“We love Greeny’s skillset and we think it will work well in one-day cricket,” Bailey said.
“He hasn’t played a great deal of one-day cricket but if we can start to expose him … he could become really important come 2023.”
World Cup hero Mitch Marsh also returns while Test star Marnus Labuschagne gets the chance to add to his 13 ODIs, the last of which he played in 2020.
Labuschagne could be an opening option to partner Finch and Bailey said his leg-spin bowling would be of major use.
Bailey also threw his support behind white-ball captain Finch, who made just 78 runs in five T20s against Sri Lanka and has made just one 50 in his last 18 T20 innings for Australia.
Finch has been battling a knee injury having played last year’s World Cup just a month after surgery. He won’t play again until the first ODI in Rawalpindi on March 29 which could be the rest he needs.
“I am sure that Finchy would have like a few more runs in the series just gone. But putting it in to context a bit he’s still batting that knee injury a little bit,” Bailey said.
“So what Finchy will have in between the end of that (Sri Lankan) series and coming on this tour will be a chance to continue to work on that. And also there’s the fact we have played a lot of T20 cricket, you can play a lot without getting a lot of time in the middle.
“I’m excited Finchy will get some one-day cricket and that ability to spend longer time at the crease will benefit him.”
Fast bowlers Nathan Ellis, Jason Behrendorff and Sean Abbott were named in the squad to replace the rested trio of star quicks.
Spinner Mitchell Swepson, who is in the extended 18-man group picked for the Test series, was also missing from the white-ball group.
AUSTRALIAN SQUAD FOR LIMITED-OVERS GAMES IN PAKISTAN
Aaron Finch (c), Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey, Nathan Ellis, Cameron Green, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitchell Marsh, Ben McDermott, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Marcus Stoinis, Adam Zampa.
March 29: First ODI, Rawalpindi
March 31: Second ODI, Rawalpindi
April 2: Third ODI, Rawalpindi
April 5: Only T20I, Rawalpindi