Can’t have an each-way bet

January 16, 2018

Steve Smith should not concern himself too much with the shorter formats of the game.

Alex Carey should take on the mantle of Australian Twenty20 wicketkeeper to give Tim Paine a chance to spend time in South Africa before the Test series.

The time has come for the Australian international cricket system to have a well-overdue facelift.

And for once I am not talking sacking the entire National Selection Panel and starting again.

In fact, I want to give them more work to do.

It is time that Australian cricket split into two national outfits.

The Australian Test and Twenty20 squads should not contain the same players.

It is a reality that has already happened once, and it is one that should be brought in on a permanent basis — for a large swathe of reasons.

Sri Lanka toured Australia in February last year for a three-match Twenty20 series, but was greeted with a home side lacking all of its Test stars.

The first match of the series coincided with an Australian tour match in India in preparation for a subsequent Test series, which began the day after Australia had secured a consolation victory against Sri Lanka in the third short-format contest.

It meant that the likes of David Warner, Steve Smith, Mitch Starc, Josh Hazlewood and other Test players who regularly suit up for Australia’s Twenty20 side were on the opposite side of the world in Test mode — exactly where they should have been.

This year a similar dilemma has arisen.

The first (and only) tour match scheduled for an Australian team looking to take on one of the toughest challenges in cricket — South Africa in South Africa — begins on February 22.

On February 21 the final of the Twenty20 tri-series between England, New Zealand and Australia will be at Eden Park — with Australia’s first match in the series on February 3.

Even if Australia fails to make the final — a likely scenario given it languishes in seventh on the rankings table — the last thing the Test squad needs to be doing in the month prior to such an important series is having a hit-and-giggle on postage stamp ovals.

The NSP needs to pick its 16-man Test squad and send it to South Africa at the start of next month, giving the players ample time to acclimatise to conditions and play themselves into long-format form.

That would then force them to select an entirely different team for the Twenty20 matches — and rightly so.

As shown by the rankings in the shortest format, Australia has not been able to click in the Twenty20 arena.

But with a premier domestic competition such as the Big Bash, it simply does not make sense.

The answer may lie with the teams we continue to select.

Yes, Warner and Smith are our two best batsmen — but is picking them for a Twenty20 series after playing longer format cricket all summer really the best policy?

What about Starc and Hazlewood?

Bowling line-and-length for 60 overs a match all summer is not the best preparation for the cutthroat four-over spells required in the fast-paced game.

If we pick our Australian team out of the Big Bash, those players will have been in slog mode for almost the entire summer and will surely stand a better chance of claiming victory.

It would allow the NSP to blood plenty of young cricketers in the international arena — something they certainly enjoy — and send a true message that Test cricket remains the number one priority in this country.

One-day cricket is a dying format, and I believe without the World Cup it would have already kicked the bucket.

But what it could provide is a strong stepping stone for Twenty20 players to push their case for Test selection, while also allowing struggling longer format players to free the arms a little and find form.

As you all know, highlighting problems without creating solutions is fraught with danger, so I have selected the two squads I feel the NSP should announce at the start of next month — and I think they both would stand a huge chance of triumphing.


David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith, Shaun Marsh, Mitch Marsh, Tim Paine, Pat Cummins, Mitch Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon, Peter Handscomb, Matt Renshaw, Glenn Maxwell, Chadd Sayers and Mitch Swepson.


D'Arcy Short, Alex Carey, Chris Lynn, Travis Head, Marcus Stoinis, Ashton Turner, Ashton Agar, AJ Tye, Billy Stanlake, Jackson Coleman, Fawad Ahmed, Cameron White, Aaron Finch, Ben Laughlin and Hilton Cartwright.

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