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Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood could play WI, NZ T20Is

A lighter-than-expected workload for Australia’s three-format fast bowlers across the Test summer so far could allow the selectors to pick them for one or both of the upcoming T20I series against West Indies and New Zealand, which are the only six T20Is Australia play before the T20 World Cup in June.

Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc have got through four Tests unscathed so far, with none of the four home matches reaching a fifth day. Neither has had to bowl more than 38 overs in a game, and Cummins is the only one who has bowled 20 overs in an innings more than once; but he has only done it twice in eight innings across the summer.

All three are being rested from the ODIs against West Indies in early February, and it seemed likely they would be rested from the T20Is too. But given how their workloads have unfolded across the summer, there may be an opportunity to play one or both of those series, with the selectors meeting on Monday to finalise those squads.

“We’ll give some thought to that,” Australia head coach Andrew McDonald said. “There’ll be some that may play, and there’ll be some that might not play. It’ll be different squads [for each series]. We’ll look to potentially be at full strength for the New Zealand series.

“We’ve got six games before the World Cup. A lot of the World Cup planning is in place at the moment. We’ll try to be as close to full strength for the New Zealand series as possible. The West Indies series is slightly nuanced.”

There were concerns over how all three would come out of the ODI World Cup into the Test summer, but those fears have disappeared as they are in great shape and keen to play all seven Tests this season, including two against New Zealand in early March.

Australia’s selectors are wary of the workload that both Cummins and Starc will have at the IPL as big-money signings, meaning they could be rested from the West Indies series before only playing part of the New Zealand series. However, Hazlewood would be the likeliest of the three to play both T20I series, given he is not going to play in the IPL unless an opportunity arises to be a replacement player.

None of the three played any of Australia’s eight T20Is last year, as they were all rested in order to be fit for Test assignments and the ODI World Cup. Australia even defied the odds to win a T20 World Cup in the UAE in 2021 and an ODI World Cup in India in 2023 with an attack comprising Cummins, Hazlewood, Starc and only one specialist spinner in Adam Zampa. Glenn Maxwell was the second spinner and first-choice fifth bowler, with other overs being provided by allrounders.

It appears as if Australia will back the same structure in for the T20 World Cup on the slower pitches in the West Indies, with Australia not scheduled to play any matches in the US.

Warner to play both WI and NZ T20Is

McDonald confirmed that David Warner would be selected for both the West Indies and New Zealand T20Is, and will be required to leave the ILT20 to return to Australia by February 7. Tim David is in the same boat, having signed for MI Emirates, and will likely return to Australia if selected. Marcus Stoinis, who is at the SA20 with Durban’s Super Giants, might also return home early if he is selected for both of Australia’s series as expected.

“Davey will be picked,” McDonald said. “He will come back from the ILT20. I think most of our players that are going over there are due back in on [February 7] in preparation for the [first] T20 in Hobart.”

However, Australia are still yet to confirm who will captain the team at the T20 World Cup. Despite leading Australia to the World Test Championship and the ODI World Cup last year, Cummins is very unlikely to be named T20I captain, having not led the team previously in that format.

Mitchell Marsh captained the side on an interim basis in South Africa last year with great success, leading an inexperienced group to a 3-0 series sweep. He was also Australia’s vice-captain during the ODI World Cup, having led the ODI team too in South Africa. Immediately after the World Cup, Matthew Wade captained the T20I side in Marsh’s absence for the five-match T20I series in India.

Meanwhile, McDonald will not coach the ODI and T20I series against West Indies in order to spend some extra time at home ahead of the New Zealand T20I and Test tour, although he is likely to be with the squad for some of the matches. Assistant coach Daniel Vettori will take the reins for those two series, having rested during the Adelaide Test. Fellow assistants Andre Borovec and Michael Di Venuto both coached Australia’s T20I sides last year in India and South Africa, respectively, when McDonald remained at home.

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