PETER Nevill will take over as Australia’s wicketkeeper for the World Twenty20 in a selection bombshell that threatens to end the international career of the dumped Matthew Wade.
Young spinners Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar are the other surprise packets in a 15-man squad that will head to India next month and attempt to become the first Australian team to ever win the showpiece tournament.
As revealed by News Corp, Steve Smith has usurped Aaron Finch as T20 captain, however the logical leadership change wasn’t the only positive move made by selectors in response to their recent thrashing by India.
The decision to prioritise keeping skills over batting and back the country’s best gloveman Nevill to do the job in India shapes as a landmark call by chairman Rod Marsh and his panel that could spell the end of the road for error-prone Victorian Wade.
“We feel our batting depth in this squad is sufficient enough that we can have a specialist wicketkeeper in the squad,” said Marsh.
“We want Australia’s best wicketkeeper playing in this tournament and we consider Peter Nevill to be the best in the country right now.”
Marsh admitted that making Smith captain of all three forms was the logical thing to do ahead of such a major tournament.
“Aaron Finch has done a very good job captaining Australia in T20 cricket,” said Marsh.
“He will have benefited enormously from the leadership opportunity and will remain a highly-respected leader within the Australian squad.
“However since he became T20 captain, there has been a broader leadership transition in Test and one-day international cricket with Michael Clarke retiring and Steve Smith assuming the captaincy in Test and one-day cricket.
“We think now is the right time for Steve to lead Australia in all three forms of the game as it offers us important continuity, not only ahead of the World T20, but beyond that tournament as well.”
Usman Khawaja can now officially consider himself part of all three formats, with the world’s most in-form batman to jostle for a top order spot alongside vice-captain David Warner, Shane Watson and Finch (hamstring) – who is still subject to a fitness test.
All-rounder James Faulkner (hamstring) and electric paceman Nathan Coulter-Nile (shoulder) are the other two players nursing injuries heading into a warm-up series in South Africa in early March which they must get through to make the final plane to India.
Josh Hazlewood is back to lead the Australian pace attack alongside Coulter-Nile, rookie Andrew Tye and firing veteran John Hastings, however all eyes will be on young spinners Zampa and Agar – with turn to play a decisive role in the sub-continental conditions.
Zampa’s selection has come at the expense of perhaps Australia’s most unlucky man – incumbent leg-spinner Cameron Boyce who had done nothing wrong and in fact was robbed of a wicket in the last T20 international against India when part-time keeper Cameron Bancroft missed a stumping.
However, Zampa has impressed in his first two ODI internationals and has been favoured for his extra pace and tenacity.
Agar has come from the clouds in the sense he didn’t bowl extensively during this year’s Big Bash League for the Perth Scorchers and he has ousted the No.1 Test off-spinner Nathan Lyon.
“Given the conditions we are likely to face in India we wanted to have a number of different spinning options available to us. Ashton Agar, Adam Zampa and Glenn Maxwell give us plenty of flexibility in the slow-bowling department which is incredibly important in this format,” said Marsh.
Meanwhile, superstars Meg Lanning, Ellyse Perry, Alyssa Healy, Alex Blackwell and Grace Harris will lead Australia’s women into battle at the World Twenty20.
Australian World T20 squad: Steve Smith (capt), David Warner (vc), Ashton Agar, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Aaron Finch, John Hastings, Josh Hazlewood, James Faulkner, Usman Khawaja, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Peter Nevill, Andrew Tye, Shane Watson, Adam Zampa