The captain and chief selector have indicated there is plenty to play for over the next few weeks
Australia’s tour squad to West Indies (and maybe onwards to Bangladesh) is missing a number of big names who have opted out, been rested, or are injured. That continues to disrupt preparations for the T20 World Cup later this year, but opens the door for others to make a late bid for inclusion.
Philippe, who has been one of the standout players in the BBL over the last two seasons, made his debut on the tour of New Zealand earlier this year. He twice got himself set with promising scores in the 40s – both coming at impressive strike rates too, as he batted at No. 3 – and in the absence of David Warner and Steven Smith for this tour, it seems likely he will get further chances at the top of the order. He did not keep wicket in that series, that role went to Matthew Wade, but if all ten T20Is take place, there could be a chance to see him there. With the logjam for top-order spots, though, he still faces being squeezed out of the final World Cup squad, but with uncertainty over Smith’s elbow, a strong few weeks would come at a good time.
It would be a terrific story if Christian makes the World Cup. And it now feels like he has a solid chance despite being a last-minute addition to this tour. The area Australia have most struggled to nail down is the middle-order batting positions and national selector Trevor Hohns, captain Aaron Finch and his BBL coach Greg Shipperd have lauded his ability to close innings. Christian was given the option as to whether he wanted to give up his Nottinghamshire T20 deal and go through two weeks’ quarantine ahead of this trip but said it was never in question.
Like Philippe, Meredith got his first chance in New Zealand where he caught the eye with his pace and twice pinned Kane Williamson lbw. He is likely already in the frame for the World Cup but fast bowling is an area Australia are well-served in. However, in the absence of Pat Cummins, Kane Richardson and Jhye Richardson, you would imagine Meredith will have a decent amount of game time to further his case. While Cummins is a certain starter at the World Cup, Meredith has the opportunity to push the two Richardsons given their decision to opt out of the trip.
Swepson was one of the standout bowlers of the last Australian season with white and red ball. He returned to the national side in the T20Is against India where he claimed five wickets in three matches, but was then a victim of bubble life as he spent weeks as a travelling back-up in the Test group. When finally able to play again, he finished the BBL strongly with the Brisbane Heat – forming a legspin pair with Marnus Labuschagne – and then was picked in the Test squad to tour South Africa ahead of the T20I series in New Zealand. However, even if the South Africa trip had gone ahead, he would have been ruled out with a stress fracture in his neck. Now he has the chance to push his white-ball claims again having moved back above Tanveer Sangha in the pecking order. With enlarged squads a possibility for the World Cup, there could be room for three specialist spinners.
When Hazlewood faced India in Canberra last year, it was just his ninth T20I in more than seven years since making his debut. It’s a format he has never quite found a home in – the metronomic line and length that is such an asset in Tests and one-day cricket perhaps perceived as a weakness (along with Australia’s desire to manage their fast bowlers). He could get a few more chances on this tour to show what he can bring to the T20 side and make a case for inclusion in the World Cup party. But, while T20s are the main focus over the next few weeks, there are also three ODIs in the West Indies with important World Cup qualifying points on offer.
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo