Steve Smith and David Warner completed their remarkable comeback from the ball-tampering scandal that rocked cricket when they were yesterday selected in defending champion Australia’s World Cup squad.
But there was no room for Josh Hazlewood or Peter Handscomb at the tournament in England and Wales.
It is the first call-up for the former captain and his deputy since the expiry last month of year-long bans for their part in “sandpapergate” in Cape Town that had wide repercussions for Australian cricket.
Then-coach Darren Lehmann quit and all the top brass from Cricket Australia left after a scathing review said their “arrogant and controlling” win-at-all-costs culture was partly to blame for players bending the rules.
Both players were eligible for the final two games of Australia’s recent limited-overs tour against Pakistan, but selectors preferred that they eased themselves back at the Twenty20 Indian Premier League.
Both grabbed the opportunity and have been in good touch, particularly the bombastic Warner who has made a blistering return.
“As far as I’m concerned they have done everything that’s been asked of them in the last 12 months,” said one-day skipper Aaron Finch, adding that he didn’t believe their return would be destabilising.
“Knowing them both personally as I do, I don’t think there will be any issues whatsoever. They are both great, great guys.”
Their return has left coach Justin Langer with a dilemma on the back of Australia winning eight one-day internationals on the trot, against India and Pakistan.
All the top order have been firing, and it is Handscomb who is the fall guy despite averaging 43 in 13 games this year. The decision to drop him means the team only has one wicketkeeper in Alex Carey.
Australia’s recent red-hot form has been built on the back of a rock-solid opening partnership between Finch and Usman Khawaja.
The decision for Langer now is whether to retain that combination when the 50-over World Cup begins at the end of next month or move one of them down to make way for Warner, who traditionally opens the batting.
Shaun Marsh, Smith, Glenn Maxwell and all-rounder Marcus Stoinis make up the middle order.
“There’s so much flexibility in our order and there will be a lot of options,” said Finch. “There’s been a couple of hard decisions made on the 15, but there’s going to be some even tougher ones with the 11.”
Selectors opted for two spinners in Adam Zampa and Nathan Lyon and five quick bowlers.
As with the batsmen, Australia’s selectors faced a bowling conundrum as they target a record sixth World Cup triumph.
Pat Cummins will spearhead the attack while Mitchell Starc, the 2015 World Cup player of the tournament, has been recalled after being sidelined with a muscle tear since early February.
But Hazlewood, who has been out of action since January with a back injury, missed out, with chief selector Trevor Hohns saying the focus was on having him ready for the Ashes Test series in England which begins in August.
Jhye Richardson, who dislocated his shoulder last month, makes the grade along with Nathan Coulter-Nile and Jason Behrendorff.
Hazlewood and Handscomb were instead named in both Australia’s one-day A squad, which will play games in England while the World Cup is on, and their four-day A squad to face English county sides in the build-up to the Ashes.
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