A huge amount remains to be worked out about how the Australian season will come together due to Covid-19 and the associated restrictions, but one aspect that is looking more likely is that enlarged international squads will be needed due to being unable to bring players in and out of biosecure bubbles.
Justin Langer, the Australia head coach, said it could be one of several compromises required to keep the season going. The BBL, a tournament that needs its star names, might be particularly heavily impacted with the four-Test series against India set to run concurrently with a big chunk of the competition and players unable to move between international and BBL duty as they would in a normal season.
There are also the one-day series against India and New Zealand on the schedule; the former may be moved to the start of the international season but the latter is currently lined up as the BBL is reaching the finals.
During their season, England have kept their Test and white-ball squads separate so far – including different coaching staff – although some of the Test players may feature in upcoming matches against Australia once the Pakistan series is finished.
The lists for the BBL are yet to be locked in due to a contracting embargo and there has been talk of holding a player draft although that may not be possible this season. However, if we look at each side in terms of how they lined up last season it gives an indication of how the teams could be impacted by Australia call-ups.
A Boxing Day Test century against New Zealand last season has cemented Travis Head into Australia’s middle order meaning he will be locked in for the series against India. Alex Carey, who is off contract at the Strikers but expected to re-sign, is the gloveman in the T20I and ODI team. He may also be required as a reserve keeper for the Test side although Matthew Wade could cover that role. Michael Neser was part of every Test squad last season without being able to make his debut and would be a strong candidate to be among pace-bowling back-up.
With two half-centuries in eight innings last summer, Joe Burns did not completely secure the opening berth but has the credit for an extended run. Marnus Labuschagne, who is out of contract and yet to establish his T20 career, isn’t going anywhere from the No. 3 position in the Test team and is establishing himself as No.4 in ODIs while James Pattinson, another needing to put pen to paper on a new BBL deal, is the first choice quick behind the big three.
When Australia included a second spinner in the squad for the SCG Test against New Zealand they went with Mitchell Swepson and he would have been a frontrunner to join Nathan Lyon on the postponed Bangladesh tour. There would need to be spin cover in an enlarged Test squad, even if two are unlikely to play in the same XI at home. Like Pattinson and Labuschagne, he is currently out of BBL contract.
While the most vulnerable of the top six, Matthew Wade is established in the Test team and as mentioned above, could be the back-up wicketkeeper. He is also seen as a versatile option in the limited-overs set-up, able to fill any position in the top six if needed. Depending on how many back-up quicks were needed, Riley Meredith, who is on the limited-overs trip to England, could come into the frame. Ben McDermott and D’Arcy Short were both cut from the initial 26-man squad named ahead of the England tour but may remain in contention.
Australia and Renegades captain Aaron Finch would be needed for all limited-overs series. Marcus Harris, who lost his place after the Ashes series, would be a likely contender as a reserve opening batsman for a larger Test squad and Kane Richardson is a regular of the T20I playing XI and part of the ODI squad.
Glenn Maxwell and Adam Zampa would be all-but certain to be involved in white-ball internationals while Marcus Stoinis is back in the picture having been selected for the England tour. It’s unlikely any of that trio would be in the mix for a Test berth.
Mitchell Marsh is back in ODI and T20I set-up and would be a good chance of being in an enlarged Test squad. Ashton Agar is a regular in both limited-overs teams while AJ Tye is back in the squad for the England tour. Kurtis Patterson could come into the frame as a back-up Test batting option while the hugely talented Cameron Green would push to be considered as an allrounder for the Test squad especially if he starts the season well. Jhye Richardson could also be back in contention if he recovers fully from his winter should surgery
It would appear unlikely that the defending champions will see anything of Steve Smith, Nathan Lyon or Josh Hazlewood this season after the trio were able to slot into last season’s campaign between Australia duty. Sean Abbott and Josh Philippe are also both in the limited-overs set-up while Jackson Bird could be an outsider for a larger Test squad.
Usman Khawaja has not been able to get back into an Australia squad since the Ashes, but he would be a strong option to bolster the top-order batting reserves in a Test squad. Daniel Sams is having his first taste of international cricket on the England tour and Chris Tremain could be in the mix among Test seam-bowling reserves if he makes an impression after his state move to New South Wales.
And three more…
Pat Cummins made one appearance fpr the Thunder in the 2018-19 season but was unable to squeeze in any BBL appearance last summer. David Warner has not played in the BBL since 2013 and Mitchell Starc since 2014. They are names that the tournament, and the broadcasters, would love to have on show but that looks unlikely to happen this season unless they are released from Australia duty after the Test series against India.