Matthew Wade has been handed a surprise reprieve to lead the Australian T20 side for the five-match series in India after the World Cup.
Wade, who said he thought his international days were over last summer after Australia’s failed T20 World Cup defence on home soil, will lead the side with Mitch Marsh being given a rest after he skippered the white-ball sides in South Africa recently.
The 35-year-old keeper, who was a late call-up to the South African tour when Glenn Maxwell returned home injured but did not play a game, is a curious selection given the Australian team is in need of youth in all three formats.
Josh Inglis has also been selected in the 15-man squad for the India series after he recently replaced Alex Carey as the ODI keeper but may have to play as a specialist batter with Wade the captain.
Steve Smith could be given the chance to stake his claim as Australia’s T20 opener, with the veteran to stay in India for the post-World Cup series alongside David Warner.
Australia’s first-choice fast-bowling cartel of Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc will skip the series to return home to prepare for the Test summer, along with Marsh and fellow all-rounder Cameron Green.
Head, who blasted a ton in the World Cup on Saturday against New Zealand, is the only other Test player to remain behind in India for the series and with his experience as South Australian skipper and seen as a contender to replace Cummins as the ODI captain in the near future, the selectors could have given him a chance in a leadership role instead of bringing back a veteran like Wade.
Although there is some potential that he, Warner or Smith could also leave midway through the tour, with the final T20 just 13 days out from the first T20 in Perth.
After putting a heavy focus on one-day cricket in recent months, the matches will mark the beginning of Australia’s preparations for next year’s T20 World Cup in the Caribbean and USA.
Smith has indicated his desire to open in that tournament, firmly believing it is his best position in T20 cricket.
Overlooked for part of the home World Cup in the format last year, the 34-year-old blasted two centuries at the top of the order for the Sydney Sixers last summer.
He had then been told he would open in three T20s against South Africa in August and September, before a wrist injury ended that plan.
“It’s unfortunate, I wanted to go and open the batting in the T20s,” Smith told AAP at the time.
“Anyone would want to open in T20 cricket. It was cool to be able to show what I could do in the Big Bash.
“Hopefully I can replicate that internationally as well.”
Smith will likely be vying for the opener role against both Head and Warner during the tour.
Head made scores of six, 18 and 91 opening against South Africa in that series, while Warner was rested from it but plans to play on until next year’s World Cup.
Wade also did not play on the tour of South Africa, and at age 35 it was thought his international career could be over before his leadership made him an enticing option for selectors in India.
Young quick Spencer Johnson is also part of the squad, while Adam Zampa and Tanveer Sangha are the spinners with Ashton Agar still battling a calf injury.
“Matthew has captained the team previously, is a leader in the group and we look forward to him taking the reins for this series,” chief selector George Bailey said.
“Like Mitch Marsh in the South Africa series, this is another great opportunity to further deepen our international leadership experience and depth.
“It’s an experienced squad with a mixture of players who have had their first opportunity on the international stage and that we hope will continue to develop into important players in our T20 group.”
AUSTRALIA SQUAD FOR INDIA T20s: Matthew Wade (c), Jason Behrendorff, Sean Abbott, Tim David, Nathan Ellis, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Spencer Johnson, Glenn Maxwell, Tanveer Sangha, Matt Short, Steve Smith, Marcus Stoinis, David Warner, Adam Zampa.