‘Looks doubtful’: Steve Smith, Pat Cummins in race for Australian T20 World Cup team selection

Australia’s selectors have some serious thinking to do after fringe bowlers staked their claim to break up the golden trio of pacemen at this year’s T20 World Cup.

After a disastrous display on home soil at the 2022 World Cup, Australia will be hoping to complete their trophy cabinet by winning the T20 World Cup in the Caribbean and USA in June.

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The early signs are promising after the Aussies swept New Zealand 3-0 in last week’s T20 series across the ditch despite being challenged by the Kiwis at times.

Australia has managed to regenerate their T20 batting line-up, with Travis Head now a walk-up selection in all formats, while Tim David and Matt Short are now key players in the squad after bashing down the door in the Big Bash and overseas.

But it would take a brave selector to leave out one of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood for Australia’s first game of the World Cup later this year.

Cummins’ place in the side would appear the most vulnerable out of the trio. With Mitch Marsh now captain, he is no longer an automatic selection.

Starc’s pace and ability to swing the new ball make him first picked, while Hazlewood’s form in white ball cricket has been exceptional since he was overlooked for the 2019 ODI World Cup.

Nathan Ellis might not be a household name but he showed why he should be in the 15-player World Cup squad with two solid outings against New Zealand.

He had figures of 2/16 off three overs and 0/11 off two overs, showing superb versatility and variation of pace in death overs against the Kiwis.

Then there’s Spencer Johnson, who took wickets for fun in the Big Bash and is living up to his $1.7 million IPL payday every time he bowls.

It begs the question, is Cummins in Australia’s best T20 team?

Starc, Cummins and Hazlewood conceded a total of 118 runs in the first T20 against New Zealand, as Marsh and David chased down 216 in a thriller.

But Cummins rose to the occasion countless times in 2023 — including in the ODI World Cup final against India — so it would be a bold move to leave him out of a must win game for Australia.

Australia may also look to take a second spinner such as Ashton Agar or Tanveer Sangha depending on conditions.

As for Australia’s batting, Steve Smith scored 11 in the third T20 against the Kiwis as he battles to keep his spot in the one format he hasn’t quite dominated.

In international T20Is, Smith’s averages to 24.86 and a strike rate of 125.45 with just five fifties in 55 innings.

The emergence of Short, David, Josh Inglis and having Marcus Stoinis as potential back-up mean Smith might not be on the plane to the Caribbean.

CODE Sports’ Daniel Cherny wrote on X: “A lot to like from Australia across the six T20s inside 17 days. World Cup selection picture looking clearer.

“Ellis gets there and so too should Short. David a lock at 6. But Smith at this stage looks doubtful given squad balance.”

Cricket reporter Daniel Brettig posted: “Tim David, Matt Short, Nathan Ellis, Spencer Johnson and Travis Head all enhanced their international T20 reputations with moments to remember during Australia’s clean sweep of New Zealand. Steve Smith did not.”

Australia’s likely best World Cup XI: David Warner, Travis Head, Mitch Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Matt Short, Tim David, Matthew Wade, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Adam Zampa

Possible spare squad members: Josh Inglis, Spencer Johnson, Nathan Ellis, Marcus Stoinis

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