Australian captain Steve Smith could go nearly two years without leading the Twenty20 side as his deputy Aaron Finch said the packed international schedule was not helping Australia’s development in the shortest form of the game.
Despite the raging success of the Big Bash League, Australia is well off the pace in the international Twenty20 arena. Ranked fifth, the country has a poor record at the World T20, which they will be desperate to improve heading into the next edition at home in 2020.
The three-game series against Sri Lanka is a rare opportunity for Australia’s Twenty20 team to play but first-choice players Smith, David Warner, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood are all unavailable as it clashes with preparations for the Tests in India.
Australia are scheduled to play only another 11 Twenty20 games before the 2020 world title in the current future tours program, which finishes at the 2019 World Cup. The need to manage Australia’s stars means it will be long odds their best players will be available for the bulk of those games.
Smith, who last played in the World T20 11 months ago, will not lead the side again until the back end of next summer at the earliest, against England and New Zealand. But If recent history is a guide, it would not surprise if Cricket Australia gave Smith time off during those games, which are wedged between an Ashes series and a marquee Test tour of South Africa.
“Ideally you’d love the best 11 players available for every game Australia plays but that’s not feasible at the moment,” Finch said.
“There is a lot of cricket. When you’re looking at the schedule it’s hard to see where guys will get a break. I totally understand it, the players want to be available for everything but you need a break here and there.
“These guys are going into a huge Test series as well so you have to take that into consideration. Out of the three [formats], T20 internationals would be the least prioritised until the World Cup year – I understand that but at the same time it makes it difficult.
“There’s a fine line between how many is enough preparation for a tournament and expect to be successful. If you tack on one or two games to the end of each series then the summers blow out and become too long in my opinion and guys will be worn out.
“You have to rest people and give guys a chance to be at their best for Test and one-day cricket, which in my opinion are more highly prioritised than T20 internationals.”
Australia’s squad against Sri Lanka includes four men yet to represent their country. Only Finch, Pat Cummins, James Faulkner and Travis Head are regular players at international level.
A crowd of around 40,000 is expected for the first game on Friday night, which features the Southern Stars as a curtain-raiser, well down on the 71,162 who turned out for the BBL’s Melbourne derby on New Year’s Day at the venue.
“There’s a lot of pride still. Every time you represent your country it’s a huge honour and there will be some guys who do it for the first time,” Finch said.
“Someone like Maxy Klinger, who gets an opportunity after the best part of 15 years grinding it out and being very successful.
“We haven’t been as successful as we’d have liked in the T20 format. This is a great opportunity for some young guys and experienced guys to get some international experience and put their name up there.”