Aaron Finch was replaced with Steve Smith as captain, while Test wicket-keeper Peter Nevill made way to Matthew Wade as Cricket Australia (CA) effected critical changes in its 15-member World T20 squad on Tuesday.
“The Australian men’s T20 International squad will be led by current Test and One-Day International captain Steve Smith, replacing Aaron Finch who has held the role since October 2014,” CA said in an announcement.
National selector Rod Marsh said it was the right time for Smith to captain Australia in all three formats.
“Aaron Finch has done a very good job captaining Australia in T20 cricket. He will have benefited enormously from the leadership opportunity and will remain a highly-respected leader within the Australian squad,” Marsh said.
“However, since he became T20 captain, there has been a broader leadership transition in Test and One-Day International cricket with Michael Clarke retiring and Steve Smith assuming the captaincy in Test and one-day cricket.”
“We think now is the right time for Steve to lead Australia in all three forms of the game as it offers us important continuity, not only ahead of the World T20, but beyond that tournament as well,” Marsh said.
Among other big changes, Australian Test wicket-keeper Nevill, who played for the Melbourne Renegades in the KFC Big Bash League will make his T20I debut. He has been selected ahead of incumbent limited-overs wicketkeeper Wade, who has paid the price for some inconsistent glovework and a modest runs output (albeit from limited opportunities) with the bat of late.
While Nevill’s batting in 20-over cricket is scarcely dominant – he has averaged 15.75 with a highest score of 25 and a strike rate of barely a run-per-ball in the KFC Big Bash League – the quality of his wicketkeeping could prove vital on low, slow Indian pitches.
“We feel our batting depth in this squad is sufficient enough that we can have a specialist wicket-keeper in the squad. We want Australia’s best wicket-keeper playing in this tournament and we consider Peter Nevill to be the best in the country right now,” March reasoned.
In line for their T20 International debuts are Perth Scorchers’ left-arm spinner Ashton Agar and Melbourne Stars’ leg-spinner Adam Zampa, who complement the right-arm off-spin of Glenn Maxwell.
“Given the conditions we are likely to face in India we wanted to have a number of different spinning options available to us. Ashton Agar, Adam Zampa and Glenn Maxwell give us plenty of flexibility in the slow-bowling department which is incredibly important in this format,” March said.
Finch (hamstring), Nathan Coulter-Nile (shoulder), and James Faulkner (hamstring) have all been named in the squad subject to fitness.
Australia have never won the World T20 title, which is the only world title missing in their illustrious history.
“Overall, we believe the squad we have selected is well-balanced and has the experience and talent required to be successful in India and help us win the World T20 title for the first time,” March said.
“We were able to look at a number of players during the BBL and the recent T20I series against India and have selected the best short-form players available for the conditions we will encounter.”
Australia’s first match of the tournament is against New Zealand on 18 March at Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium in Dharamsala.
CA also declared the women’s team for the same tournament.
The men’s squad: Steve Smith (Captain), David Warner (vice-captain), Ashton Agar, Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, John Hastings, Josh Hazlewood, Usman Khawaja, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Peter Nevill, Andrew Tye, Shane Watson, Adam Zampa.
The women’s squad: Meg Lanning (Captain), Alex Blackwell (vice-captain), Kristen Beams, Lauren Cheatle, Sarah Coyte, Rene Farrell, Holly Ferling, Grace Harris, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Beth Mooney, Erin Osborne, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Elyse Villani.