Steve Smith and David Warner completed their remarkable comeback from the ball-tampering scandal that rocked cricket when they were on Monday 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.
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.
Australia World Cup squad: Aaron Finch (capt), Usman Khawaja, David Warner, Steve Smith, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Jhye Richardson, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Lyon and Adam Zampa.