SMITH REPLACES FINCH AS T20I CAPTAIN
Steven Smith was named to lead Australia in place of Aaron Finch in the ICC World Twenty20 2016when the selectors named a 15-man squad on Tuesday (February 9) for the March-April event in India. Finch, however, retained his place in the side.
Finch has been captain in the shortest format since October 2014, but with Smith already leading Australia in Tests and One-Day Internationals, Rod Marsh, the chairman of selectors, reckoned now was the right time for Smith to take over as captain for all three formats.
“Aaron Finch has done a very good job captaining Australia in T20 cricket,” said Marsh. “He will have benefited enormously from the leadership opportunity and will remain a highly-respected leader within the Australian squad.
“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.”
Smith was happy to accept his new role and acknowledged that leading Australia in the ICC World Twenty20 was a massive challenge. “It's a fast-paced game, you have to really think on your feet, be ahead of the game,” said Smith. “The World Cup is going to be a big challenge for us. It is one of the trophies that has eluded this side. We're going to be playing in different conditions where we haven't had a lot of success. It's going to be a hard tour but I'm really looking forward to it.”
Australia made one notable change to the squad. Matthew Wade paid for his poor form and Peter Nevill, who has only played in the longest format for Australia so far, was named as the team’s wicketkeeper. “We feel our batting depth in this squad is sufficient enough that we can have a specialist wicketkeeper in the squad,” explained Marsh. “We want Australia's best wicketkeeper playing in this tournament and we consider Peter Nevill to be the best in the country right now.”
The two specialist spinner slots went to Ashton Agar, the left-arm spinner, and Adam Zampa, the leg-spinner, who are both yet to earn their caps in the shortest format. The two were preferred over Nathan Lyon and Cameron Boyce. Glenn Maxwell provides the back-up. The pace battery will be led by Josh Hazlewood, who will be supported by Nathan Coulter-Nile, John Hastings and Andrew Tye, with James Faulkner and Mitchell Marsh providing options.
The availability of some of the players, however, is subject to fitness. Finch and Faulkner are both nursing hamstring injuries, while Coulter-Nile suffered a dislocated shoulder seven weeks ago. “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,” said Marsh. “We were able to look at a number of players during the Big Bash League and the recent T20 international series against India and have selected the best short-form players available for the conditions we will encounter.”
Australia travels to South Africa for three T20Is for its final international assignment before the ICC World Twenty20, where it kickstarts its campaign against New Zealand.
Squad: Usman Khawaja, David Warner, Shane Watson, Steven Smith (capt), Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Marsh, James Faulkner, John Hastings, Peter Nevill (wk), Adam Zampa, Josh Hazlewood, Aaron Finch, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Ashton Agar, Andrew Tye.