Australia’s selectors have withdrawn David Warner from the Twenty20 series against India, paving the way for Steve Smith to trial as an opener for next year’s World Cup in the format.
Warner was on Tuesday officially ruled out, given the chance to return home and rest before his final Test series against Pakistan.
The opener’s withdrawal serves as another blow to what looms as one of the most overlooked Australian series in recent memory. If ever there needed to be a reminder about cricket’s cluttered calendar, this five-match series is it.
The opening game will be played in Visakhapatnam, just four days after India lost to Australia in the 50-over World Cup final.
The hosts named their squad for the series on Tuesday, with Suryakumar Yadav the only player who featured in the decider available for the first three matches.
Matches will also be played in Thiruvananthapuram, Barsapara, Nagpur and Hyderabad, with Australia having never played in the first two of those cities before.
By series end, Australia will also have played 26 matches in India in 2023, with four Tests and three ODIs earlier in the year, before another bilateral series in September and then the ODI World Cup.
Warner has been replaced in the squad by young allrounder Aaron Hardie, giving him and Tanveer Sangha the chance to impress in front of potential IPL suitors.
Cricket is still catching up contractually-obligated matches from Covid, with a raft of other series meaning these games did not fit earlier in the year.
The series is theoretically the beginning of preparations for next year’s T20 World Cup in the Caribbean and USA. But India’s squad also only includes three players who featured in last year’s 20-over event.
Australia will be without their frontline quicks and Mitch Marsh, but there is some chance to begin plans for the 2024 T20 World Cup.
Smith has spoken about his desire to open the batting, and will likely be able to now do so with Travis Head after Warner’s exit.
The former captain was initially slated to open in matches against South Africa in September, but was ruled out of the series with a wrist injury.
Overlooked for large parts of Australia’s T20 World Cup last year, Smith smashed two centuries at the top of the order in the Big Bash League for the Sydney Sixers last summer.
He now faces competition from the likes of Head, Marsh and Warner to be at the top of the order for next year’s World Cup, after having never opened before in international T20 cricket.
“Anyone would want to open in T20 cricket,” Smith said at the start of the summer.
“It was cool to be able to show what I could do in the Big Bash. Hopefully I can replicate that internationally as well.”
Australia squad: Matthew Wade (c), Aaron Hardie, Jason Behrendorff, Sean Abbott, Tim David, Nathan Ellis, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Glenn Maxwell, Tanveer Sangha, Matt Short, Steve Smith, Marcus Stoinis, Kane Richardson, Adam Zampa.
India squad: Suryakumar Yadav (c), Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ishan Kishan, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Tilak Varma, Rinku Singh, Jitesh Sharma, Washington Sundar, Axar Patel, Shivam Dube, Ravi Bishnoi, Arshdeep Singh, Prasidh Krishna, Avesh Khan, Mukesh Kumar, Shreyas Iyer (last two matches only).