BBL form could count for a lot when Australia next select a squad if the Test tour to South Africa also goes ahead
Australia’s T20I captain Aaron Finch has said the list of possible players for the upcoming T20 tour of New Zealand is as long as ever as the national selectors face the prospect of picking a Test squad to tour South Africa at the same time.
The dates for Australia’s five-match T20 tour of New Zealand are locked in and the squad is likely to travel the day after the BBL final on February 6 in order to complete the mandatory 14-days quarantine in New Zealand before the first game in Christchurch on February 22.
Australia are also due to play a three-Test series in South Africa at the same time, between February 14 and March 13. The dates for that tour are yet to be confirmed with the two boards continuing discussions about the safety protocols, but there is a provisional date for the first Test to start on February 18.
Australia coach Justin Langer has already made his feelings clear about the prospect of selecting two national teams to play in two different countries at the same time, albeit in different formats, but the reality is that if the South Africa goes ahead Australia will need two squads.
“Honestly, there are so many names,” Finch said. “When you look at the list and the chats that you have with selectors there’s a lot of people that get talked about, and a lot of it is going to come down to, for this tour of New Zealand, selection for the Test squad, [and it] will depend on who gets opportunities and what type of player gets opportunities.
“It’s an exciting time for Australia cricket. It’s probably not ideal having two Australian teams playing at the same time but it’s going to give us a lot of information going forward.”
Finch said planning for Australia’s tour of New Zealand has been put on hold until the Test series with India was complete.
“There’s been a lot of waiting for the Test series to be over and then there’ll be a chance to name both squads and then we’ll be able to move forward and start planning that out a bit better,” he said.
Australia have a number of players who are involved in both formats including David Warner, Steven Smith, Matthew Wade, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, and Josh Hazlewood. Moises Henriques, Sean Abbott, and Mitchell Swepson have also been involved in both squads this summer.
Smith, Wade, Henriques, Abbott, and Swepson all played in Australia’s last T20I against India with Warner, Starc, Cummins and Hazlewood absent.
Ashton Agar has been part of Australia’s first choice T20I side for 12 months but missed the last series against India due to a calf injury which has seen him ruled out of the entire BBL and looks unlikely to be available.
Finch mentioned Josh Philippe, Ben McDermott, and Mitchell Marsh as three players who have impressed during the BBL. Philippe is yet to make his international debut but did tour England with the Australian limited-overs teams last year, while McDermott has played 12 T20Is but none since 2019.
Marsh was Player of the Match in Australia’s win in the third T20I in England last September but has not played for Australia since after suffering an ankle injury in the IPL. He suffered a side strain in the last BBL match for the Scorchers which will sideline him for at least one match and he won’t bowl again in the tournament.
Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Melbourne