A high-scoring shootout looms when Australia begin their three-match T20 series in South Africa on Friday.
The Australian cricket summer is becoming extremely hard to schedule what with three forms of the game to manage.
Cricket Australia has its cash cows that it needs to maintain: the Boxing Day and New Year’s Tests and of course, the Big Bash League (BBL).
Many pundits are suggesting the planning for this summer has been far better than in previous years and to some degree, that’s a fair comment. Players are easing their way back into cricket through an extended version of the Marsh Cup and it won’t be long before many will be preparing for Shield cricket as a warm-up for the Tests against Pakistan and New Zealand.
Prior to the first Test though, we have two T20 series against Sri Lanka and Pakistan with the first game scheduled to start in four weeks. The problem is, the selectors have no recent T20 form to decide who should play in these games.
The last time Australia played in an international T20 match was in India at the end of February this year. Some have played in the IPL, but apart from that, the Australian selectors have no T20 form to go by.
Cricket Australia realized it had a similar problem earlier this year when trying to decide who should be selected for the Ashes tour. One of the ways selectors had a chance to see players in action was to select a training squad and choose two teams to play off against each other.
It’s debatable just how successful this game actually was, but at least it gave some guidance, when considered with county form, World Cup form, end of Australian season form, etc.
A similar exercise would be useful in the lead up to these T20 series. The T20 World Cup is a year away but we should be getting a squad ready now, rather than waiting until the last few weeks and hoping the selections would be good enough, as happened with the World Cup.
Perhaps with better preparation in English conditions, different players might have been chosen and a better outcome achieved.
Cricket Australia should bring together a squad of 22 players and schedule a couple of practice games in the week prior to the first T20 against Sri Lanka. Not only would that give selectors an idea about who should play, but it would also give players a chance to adjust their thinking and technique from ODI to T20.
These T20 internationals should also be seen as trials for the World Cup. Again, that’s not for another 12 months, but there’s plenty of young talent in Australian short-form cricket and these guys have limited opportunities to show what they can do, which is why the suggested practice games would be very important to them.
It’s too late to schedule anything now and this is where Cricket Australia has probably missed a trick. Selectors will have to rely on whatever form they can glean from the Marsh Cup or from internationals eight months ago.
At best, they’ll be guessing about player form, which is hardly a guarantee of success.