Smith and Warner back for Australia’s World Cup defence

Ball-tamperers Steve Smith and David Warner were on Monday selected for Australia’s World Cup squad, but there was no room for Josh Hazlewood or Peter Handscomb. It is the first call-up for the former captain and his deputy since the expiry late last month of year-long bans for their part in the “sandpapergate” scandal in Cape Town that rocked cricket.

They 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. It left coach Justin Langer with a dilemma on the back of the defending World Cup champions 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.

“We have been extremely pleased with how the ODI squad has been building
over the past six months, including the recent series wins in India and
against Pakistan in the UAE,” said chief selector Trevor Hohns.

“Steve Smith and David Warner come back into the squad. Both are world-
class players and it has been pleasing to see them produce some good form in
the IPL.”

Australia’s recent red-hot form has been built on the back of a rock-solid
opening partnership between skipper Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja.

The decision for Langer now is whether to retain that combination when the
50-over World Cup begins in England and Wales 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.

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.

– Depth of talent –

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 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 Australia’s A squad for
their tour of England starting in June, which will provide opportunities for
players to make their case to be included in the Ashes squad.

“Given the depth of talent and competition for spots there were a number
of tough calls we had to make to settle on our squad of 15,” said Hohns.

“Unfortunately, from the recent squad which toured India and the UAE,
Peter Handscomb, Ashton Turner and Kane Richardson have made way for the
above inclusions, but all three have been included in the Australia A squad
for the tour of England.”

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, Adam Zampa

Australia A squad: Travis Head (capt), Matthew Wade, Will Pucovski, Peter
Handscomb, Ashton Turner, Mitch Marsh, D’Arcy Short, Kurtis Patterson, Ashton
Agar, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Josh Hazlewood, Kane Richardson, Sean
Abbott