Sean Abbott has earned a maiden World Cup berth as Australia named an allrounder-heavy 15-player squad without Marnus Labuschagne for next month’s mega event in India.
Although unsurprising given his initial snub from the touring party for the South Africa ODI series, Labuschagne’s omission underlines the Aussies’ preference for versatility in the 50-over format with three seam-bowling allrounders picked instead.
In fact, Cameron Green was one of the four all-rounders selected capable of batting in the top seven (along with Mitch Marsh, Marcus Stoinis and Glenn Maxwell), while frontline bowlers Ashton Agar and Abbott are also capable batters.
Abbott won out over Nathan Ellis for the fourth pace-bowling spot behind the ‘big three’ of captain Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood. Both Abbott and Ellis had made reasonable claims for the position, but Abbott’s extra experience (11 career ODIs to Ellis’ four) and stronger batting played in his favour.
Josh Inglis is essentially the reserve batter, in addition to being the wicketkeeping understudy to Alex Carey. Australia notably did not pick up a back-up gloveman for last year’s T20 World Cup after Inglis injured his hand on the eve of the tournament.
The 15-player squad, which remains provisional and can be changed up until the ICC-mandated deadline of September 28, gives Australia considerable flexibility.
Stoinis, Maxwell and Green have all batted as low as No.8 in the one-day team in recent times, and could do so again in India if conditions dictate, while a more traditional team structure featuring four specialist bowlers is also possible.
The uncapped Tanveer Sangha, who impressed in the recent T20Is against South Africa and could make his ODI debut in the five-game series beginning Thursday, did not make the cut with Adam Zampa and Agar the two specialist spinners picked.
Along with Sangha and Ellis, Aaron Hardie, Spencer Johnson and Tim David are the players in the squad to face South Africa who missed out on World Cup selection.
That group also now includes Labuschagne, a late call-up due to an injury to his close friend Steve Smith.
Labuschagne has averaged 24.93 in ODIs since the start of last year, but his skills with the bat, his status as one of the country’s best fielders and handy leg-spin means he remains an attractive option.
But with option of making squad changes right up until a week before the tournament, Labuschagne or even an untried prospect like Sangha could still force their way in through strong performances in upcoming ODIs against South Africa and India.
That pair could be front of the queue if tweaks are required given the numerous fitness concerns in the Australian camp, with Smith, Cummins (both nursing wrist injuries), Starc (groin) and Maxwell (ankle) all currently out of action.
Of that quartet, only Cummins is in the ODI squad to face the Proteas, though his involvement is in doubt.
Selection chief George Bailey was confident all four will be fit for the six-week tournament and could return in a three-ODI series against India before the World Cup begins, but kept the door open for further squad changes.
“All are well placed to come back online in the coming weeks and potentially for selection in the upcoming series against India,” said selection chief George Bailey.
“There are eight one-day matches still to play in South Africa and India before the final squad is due to be declared.
“They are followed by two World Cup practice games, which offers plenty of opportunity to continue the build for the tournament.”
Here is a complete squad for the World Cup 2023.