West Indies’ star power returns as Australia assess top-order squeeze ahead of T20 World Cup


The third ODI between Australia and West Indies was completed well inside the length of a T20, but now that format comes properly into view as the two teams switch their focus to building up to the World Cup in June.

Australia have six matches in the next three weeks, with another set of games against New Zealand after this series, but for West Indies this could be their last outing before having to settle on a World Cup squad. However, their T20I side is the most settled of the three formats for them and they beat England 3-2 in December (which followed a 3-2 win over India) with a squad very similar to the one touring Australia which suggests there aren’t too many holes to fill.

Australia’s World Cup questions

The same can probably be said of Australia, although they are using the pair of three-match series slightly differently. Four multi-format players – Steven Smith, Travis Head, Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc – will rest during the West Indies matches before returning in New Zealand. The 15-player squad for that tour is likely to be very close to the final one taken for the World Cup although there are a few debates to have.
Firstly, there is the question of who partners David Warner at the top of the order in what will be the swansong to his international career. Head would appear to be the frontrunner although Smith has made clear he would like to do it, while Matt Short (who will miss the West Indies series due to injury) is another option as is Josh Inglis. Captain Mitchell Marsh will likely slot in at No. 3 at the World Cup but could easily open. Cameron Green, who isn’t part of either of these two squads in order to focus on red-ball cricket, could yet come up on the rails, particularly if he has a strong IPL with Australia’s selectors saying that tournament will play a part in their thinking.
“It’s a good thing for Australian cricket to have a little bit of a logjam there with opening batters,” Matthew Wade said ahead of the opening game. “We’ve got Davey who’s arguably our best T20 opening batter, Mitchell Marsh has done it, Greeny’s done it, ‘Ingo’ [Inglis] could find himself doing it as well, he batted three in India. There’s plenty of people that are pushing for that opening spot.”
Then there is who takes the fourth pace-bowling spot behind the big three quicks. Nathan Ellis seemingly heads the list having been selected for New Zealand although needs to shake off some lingering injury issues and won’t face West Indies. Jason Behrendorff, named Australia’s T20I player of the year last week, can mount a very strong case as can allrounder Sean Abbott while Spencer Johnson has put together another impressive BBL.
One bowling name who has drifted down the pecking order is left-arm spinner Ashton Agar. He was a late scrubbing from the ODI World Cup, largely to accommodate an injured Head, and has now been overlooked for both T20 squads. The indications are that, as in India, Australia won’t take a second frontline spinner to the Caribbean, instead using Short and Glenn Maxwell in support of Adam Zampa.

The final question might be who takes the keeping gloves. Inglis and Wade are both in the upcoming squads. Wade will do so in the opening match against West Indies and is still viewed as a strong option for the middle-order finishing role he did so well in 2021, but Inglis has shown his versatility around the order in white-ball cricket and could play as a specialist batter.

West Indies’ big guns are back

For the first time on this tour, West Indies have what could be considered their strongest squad available. Jason Holder and Kyle Mayers, who weren’t available for the Test series due to franchise commitments, are back and as are Sherfane Rutherford and Brandon King who missed the ODIs. Alongside having Andre Russell (who has only played one previous T20I in Australia) and Nicholas Pooran there should be no shortage of batting power.

Russell returned to the T20I stage against England in December for the first time since the 2021 World Cup in the UAE having been headhunted by new white-ball coach Daren Sammy. He responded with a player of the match display in his first outing then indicated this year’s World Cup will mark the end of his international career (or maybe not).

“I still have a lot left in the tank,” he said. “But, you know, based on discussions with the coach, I told him that after the World Cup I would walk away from international cricket, but if they need me, I will come out of retirement.”

He is bringing some encouraging form to Australia having made 192 runs at a strike-rate of 228.57 in the ILT20. Pooran, meanwhile, left the tournament as the highest run-scorer with 261 at a strike-rate of 170.58 while Johnson Charles was also consistent.

Rutherford struggled somewhat with 105 runs in seven innings, while T20I captain Rovman Powell only managed 71 runs of which 40 came in one knock. Meanwhile, King had a tough run in the BPL with just 36 runs in six innings and Mayers made just one appearance in the SA20 for Durban’s Super Giants.
One way or the other, though, the series promises plenty of runs: since the start of 2023, Australia are the second-fastest scoring T20I team with a strike-rate of 158.24 and West Indies are fourth at 153.10.

Australia Mitchell Marsh (capt), Sean Abbott, Jason Behrendorff, Tim David, Aaron Hardie, Josh Hazlewood, Josh Inglis, Spencer Johnson, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Adam Zampa

West Indies Rovman Powell (capt), Shai Hope, Johnson Charles, Roston Chase, Jason Holder, Akeal Hosein, Alzarri Joseph, Brandon King, Kyle Mayers, Gudakesh Motie, Nicholas Pooran, Andre Russell, Sherfane Rutherford, Romario Shepherd, Oshane Thomas

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