An unprecedented schedule has prompted Australia’s selectors to ask for unprecedented flexibility regarding their deadline for the Ashes squad.
Australia’s touring party for Ashes trips have always been named months in advance but this year’s group could be picked just two weeks before the first Test starts on August 1.
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“There’s no definitive date as yet but it will be as late as possible … that’s the aim,” chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns said.
“We are certainly looking at a couple of those Australia A four-day games before naming the Ashes squad.”
It’s understood selectors will likely name a 15-man World Cup squad in early April, when they will also finalise this year’s contract list.
Hohns and Greg Chappell are expected to split the job of on-duty selector during the World Cup, ensuring they have some time at home during Australia’s seemingly endless winter in England.
The second half of the Sheffield Shield season plus an Australia A tour of England will shape the final Ashes squad, as will performances at the World Cup.
Australia A’s games overlap with the World Cup, ensuing selectors will have acclimatised reserves ready to step up in the case of any injuries during the tournament.
The A team’s second four-day match starts on July 14. Those players will stick around to face the Test squad in Australia’s only tour game before their Ashes defence begins at Edgbaston.
Kurtis Patterson’s late addition to the Test squad for the home series against Sri Lanka, after he dominated for Australia A, showed the panel is willing to break with tradition.
If ever a situation has called for an unconventional approach it is the coming months – and not just because of Steve Smith and David Warner’s reintegration.
Separating the pretenders from the contenders in the World Cup, Ashes and Australia A squads has been made more challenging because of a chaotic schedule, complex scenarios, conflicting interests and much uncertainty.
Hohns, having served as a national selector from 1993 to 2006 then returned to the panel in 2014, can’t recall anything like it.
The former spinner, who was part of the triumphant 1989 Ashes squad branded the worst to tour England, followed the Shield closely while in India with the ODI squad.
“We are keeping a close eye on everything and everybody,” Hohns said.
“It’s going to be a complicated time, it’s unprecedented to have that many teams all going to England.
“In Australia A we’ve got players who are contenders for the Ashes squad, but also have some … potential (World Cup) cover for any injuries.
“It’s a very interesting exercise.”
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Smith and Warner are on their way to Dubai for their first face-to-face meeting with the Australian squad since the ball-tampering scandal.
Smith and Warner flew out from Sydney Airport on Thursday night, with Smith speaking briefly to 7News.
“They played beautifully over in India,” Smith said of the Aussie one-day side.
“I thought they were magnificent so hopefully a lot of the boys take confidence from that.”
Australia’s on-field and off-field plans for the World Cup will form the crux of a team meeting with Smith and Warner in Dubai.
The incumbent ODI squad has landed in the UAE for their five-match series against Pakistan.
Smith and Warner will soon briefly join the touring party during a stopover en route to their respective Indian Premier League franchises.
It will mark the first time the disgraced duo, now serving the final fortnight of their year-long bans, have formally been part of the team environment since the Cape Town cheating scandal.
“It’s the perfect opportunity to get us all together, to talk about some of our plans for the World Cup,” coach Justin Langer said.
“Keep reiterating the messages about our gameplans on the field, keep reiterating the messages about what’s important for us as a group off the field.
“Because they go hand in hand.
“It’s going to be really good to see them. We’re all looking forward to catching up.”