George Bailey has all but confirmed Steve Smith won’t be in Australia’s XI to take on New Zealand on Saturday, with Aaron Finch’s side set to include Tim David instead for their World Cup opener.
Bailey also declared David Warner “fine” and said all-rounder Mitch Marsh was tracking well and would likely bowl during the early stages of the tournament.
The chairman of selectors was in Brisbane for Pat Cummins’ appointment as Australia’s ODI captain. Cummins, 29, is Australia’s 27th ODI captain and first bowler since Shane Warne.
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The push to include Singapore-born David was included in Australia’s World Cup squad has been in overdrive ever since Ricky Ponting compared his match-winning ability to Andrew Symonds.
Then, after being included in Australia’s World Cup squad, David belted 54 in the third T20 in India – the same nation where the big-hitting batter has made a name for himself as one of the most destructive finishers in the game during his time in the IPL.
It has meant Smith, the 33-year-old World Cup-winner who has dominated attacks around the world for a decade and scored consecutive 62-ball centuries against India in late 2020, has been on the outer.
Despite featuring in all three T20s in India, scoring 35 at a strike-rate of 145 in the opening match, Smith featured in just two of the next five matches against the West Indies and England.
It led to former captain Michael Clarke slamming selectors, saying he was vital for Australia’s chances of defending their World Cup crown because it was important to have someone to bat around the explosive middle-order.
Bailey all but sealed Smith’s fate on Tuesday, however, saying he would unlikely be given first crack but could still play a role in the World Cup.
“Yeah absolutely I think all the members of our 15 have a role to play,” he said.
“I don’t think that’ll be starting in the XI for Steve, but I certainly think should we need a role at some stage from him, absolutely he can.”
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Australia is expected to name a settled side, with only one change from their World Cup victory last year that beat the Kiwis with David likely to slot in for Smith.
There were some fears around David Warner’s fitness, but last year’s player of the tournament will take the first ball on Saturday despite missing Australia’s final pre-tournament match against India on Monday.
“I think (he’s) fine,” Bailey said. “I think regardless of the neck, I don’t think it was ever in our plans for David to play yesterday.”
Despite Marsh not bowling a ball during the pre-tournament T20s, Bailey said the batting all-rounder was “tracking well”.
“I don’t think it’s any secret that our all-rounders are an important part of our structure,” Bailey said.
“I think he bowled 20-30 balls with pretty good intensity in the nets yesterday.
“I think he’s hit all the markers that he wanted to but given the importance of that structure it’s not something that we wanted to risk too early, but fully expect Mitch to be available and ready to go whether that’s Saturday or game two but confident that’ll work.”
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After going into last year’s tournament as somewhat of a dark horse after an unsettled six months, which included constant swapping and changing as well as the disgruntlement between the coach Justin Langer and players and support staff, Pat Cummins said expectations were high but admitted the helter-skelter nature of T20 cricket meant complacency could not creep in.
“I think we’re in some ways even better prepared,” he said. “We’ve played a lot more.
“We can draw on the experiences from last year but in saying that T20 is a really fickle format. You look around, there’s probably four or five teams that could win it.
“You look at a couple of the qualifying games, huge upsets straight away.
“We feel really well positioned and we’ll give it a good crack.”