Gallo ImagesA congested international cricket schedule will mean Steve Smith will not lead Australia in three Twenty20 internationals against Sri Lanka in February.
At a time when the Australian Cricketers Association has increasing concerns about the sport’s calendar, Fairfax Media can reveal Smith will miss the matches in Melbourne, Geelong and Adelaide because they clash with Australia’s lead-in preparation for four Tests in India.
The tourists are understandably keen to maximise their preparation on the spinning decks of India, meaning the three Twenty20 games are likely to be without a handful of their biggest names, for Australia would also want T20 stars Mitchell Starc and David Warner to have the best possible preparation for the blue-chip Test series.
Australian team performance boss Pat Howard said Smith would miss the T20 series.
“He won’t be able to captain the T20s because of a clash in the schedule,” he said.
It’s not the first time Australia has prioritised an away Test series over home international T20s. If you think about post the Ashes [2013-14], we went to South Africa early and we played three T20s against England and … Josh Hazlewood debuted in that period,” Howard said.
Australia’s top cricketers want to represent their country on “every occasion” but a packed schedule means that is unlikely to occur.
The decision to rest frontline pacemen Starc and Hazlewood contributed greatly to Australia’s 5-0 one-day series loss to South Africa in the past month, with young replacements Chris Tremain, Joe Mennie and Dan Worrall finding their way at the elite level.
While the presence of Starc – who ultimately could not have gone because of a freak training accident – and Hazlewood may not have meant the tourists would have won, the scoreline would almost certainly have been far closer.
Cricket Australia’s high-performance team made the decision to rest the pair ahead of a busy home summer. Test series against South Africa and Pakistan and stand-alone one-day series against Pakistan and New Zealand initially await. Then comes an odd situation where the Australians will have three one-day matches in New Zealand from January 30, before returning home for three T20s against Sri Lanka.
While Australian Cricketers’ Association chief executive Alistair Nicholson did not want to comment specifically on the resting policy, he said players wanted a greater say in scheduling.
“The ACA is committed to getting the scheduling of international and domestic matches right, so we see the best players playing at the highest level on every occasion. It is what the players want and it is what the fans expect,” he said.
“The players are genuine partners in the growth and success of cricket and should be afforded greater say in the formation of the schedule and the planning of the cricket calendar.”
But Howard said the players, through the Federation of International Cricketers Association and the ACA, were given input.
“FICA were at the meetings the ICC had in Cape Town last weekend and Alistair sits on those boards and they do submit information around schedules. I feel as though they have a voice,” he said.
“It is an international schedule. We have incredible amount of control over the domestic schedule and I see the ACA having their input but the international schedule, obviously, is far more complex and a lot of moving parts. I see they have a voice there, their input is brought in there, then we have to deal with the moving pieces out to 2023 which we do at the moment.”
CA’s need to adopt a resting policy comes not just because of players’ international commitments but also because of the individually lucrative domestic Twenty20 tournaments – namely the Indian Premier League – they take part in.
The delicate balance needed to be found in Australia’s schedule will form part of discussions over the memorandum of understanding, due to begin later this month.
Once the four Tests are completed in India in March, Australia will again have a busy year. There will be the reinstated Champions Trophy tournament in England in June, a potential trip to Bangladesh for Tests and one-day internationals in August, a one-day series in India in October and then a home Ashes campaign.
“The significance of the international contest is important to the playing group – every match should have relevance and context,” Nicholson said.
“This will be a point of discussion in the upcoming MOU – the players want to be able to play for their country on every occasion, so they should then have greater say on the scheduling.”
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