Steve Smith and David Warner will be officially welcomed back into the Australian cricket fold on Monday but two key players are expected to be missing from the 15-man World Cup squad.
Underdone fast bowler Josh Hazlewood and batsman Peter Handscomb are likely to be the two high-profile omissions, with Shaun Marsh and Jhye Richardson expected to make the trip to England.
Underdone Australian quick Josh Hazlewood is set to miss out on the World Cup.Credit:AAP
Warner's return and Usman Khawaja's superb recent form have ensured there has been considerable debate about the make-up of the World Cup top-order, in particular over who of Khawaja, Marsh and Handscomb would miss out. One insider insisted Handscomb will be the "disappointed" one.
Khawaja, flourishing in a new role as an opener, has 769 runs – the most by an Australian this year – at 59 and a strike rate of 84.
Handscomb was given Smith's top-order role but was unable to deliver a series of big scores which would have rubber-stamped his spot. He was impressive on the recent ODI tour of India, making 117 in Mohali and a half-century in the next match in Dehli but was unable to pass 50 in four innings against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates.
That he could act a reserve wicketkeeper had been seen as strengthening his case but insiders have pointed out a replacement for Alex Carey could be found at quick notice during the English summer.
Hazlewood has not played since the final Test against India in Sydney because of back problems.
While he is on the mend, there had been concerns about his lack of bowling loads. Selectors are keen to have him fit for the Ashes tour, beginning in August.
Richardson dislocated his shoulder while fielding against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates but WACA officials are hopeful he could resume bowling within a fortnight. Australia's opening World Cup game is not until June 1, giving Mitchell Starc (pectoral muscle) also enough time to get fit.
Having served their year-long bans for the ball-tampering scandal, Smith and Warner will be part of the squad. They will also return to the Cricket Australia contracts list, almost certainly in the mid to lower brackets.
Warner has been in excellent touch through the Indian Premier League, highlighting his thirst for runs remains as great as ever. Smith has been less productive but had a recent half-century. While there are those who question Smith's most recent one-day international form, 102 runs at 20.4 in five innings against England in 2017-18, he is still seen as a potential match-winner.
The national selectors will show their hand on a range of fronts, for the central contracts list and limited overs and four-day squads for the Australia A tour of England, the latter to shape the Ashes tour squad, will also be confirmed.
Ashton Agar, Billy Stanlake and Andrew Tye face losing their contracts while there was expected to have been considerable debate over Matt Renshaw, who had a poor summer. Mitch Marsh had been Test vice-captain late last year but lost his spot in all three formats but could still retain a deal. Emerging star Will Pucovski was among those who could step up.
The Ashes touring squad won't be picked until late July, so performances on the A tour of England, featuring five limited overs matches and three four-day matches, will be important although this squad could change depending on how Australia goes at the World Cup.
Test skipper Tim Paine is set to lead the A side in at least two of the four-day matches – the final match is against a Test-strength Australian side finishing just days before the first Ashes Test.
This could mean fellow gloveman Matthew Wade, if selected, is used as a specialist batsman. Wade and Test opener Marcus Harris are the only men to make 1000 Sheffield Shield runs this year. Test batsmen Marcus Harris, Joe Burns and Kurtis Patterson can also expect to be selected.
Veteran quick Peter Siddle said he had been told to focus on county cricket rather than join the A squad, giving selectors the opportunity to analyse more aspirants. However, James Pattinson was recently told to his surprise that he may be needed for the Australia A one-dayers rather than the initial plan of having him also focus on county cricket.
Likely World Cup squad:
Batsmen: Aaron Finch (capt), David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith, Shaun Marsh.
Wicketkeeper: Alex Carey.
Allrounders: Marcus Stoinis, Glenn Maxwell.
Fast bowlers: Mitchell Starc, Jhye Richardson, Pat Cummins, Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Coulter-Nile.
Spinners: Adam Zampa, Nathan Lyon.
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