Travis Head and Matthew Wade have lost their Cricket Australia contracts while allrounder Cameron Green has earned his first deal but Will Pucovski has not been included.
Joe Burns, who lost his place during the series against India, and Mitchell Marsh have also been cut from last year’s original list with just 17 deals handed out for the 2021-22 season – Green being the only new name – instead of the maximum 20. However, players who make enough appearances during the period are elevated as Marcus Stoinis was last season but, too, doesn’t make this selection.
The group includes just three specialist Test batters – David Warner, Steven Smith and Marnus Labuschagne – with national selector Trevor Hohns saying he wants competition from outside those contracted.
“There are two main reasons behind the size of the contract list,” he said. “Firstly, we have seen format specialisation become increasingly prevalent in recent seasons which, accordingly, has resulted in a broader group of players representing Australia, often beyond the initial list of contracted players at the start of each year.
“Secondly, we want to create an environment where players strive for national selection through consistent domestic performances and earn national contracts through consistent international performances.”
The axing of Wade suggests he will struggle to resume his Test career after he was also dropped from the squad for the postponed tour of South Africa in February. However, he may still feature in the T20 World Cup having been on the recent tour of New Zealand and he captained Australia, as a stand-in for Aaron Finch, against India in December.
Head was dropped after two Tests against India when the selectors opted to stick with Wade amid a batting reshuffle when Pucovski and Warner both returned from injury at the SCG. However, he was part of the squad for the South Africa tour and had a prolific Sheffield Shield season as he finished the second-leading run-scorer behind Green and is likely to be a strong candidate for a middle-order spot in the Ashes.
“There is a considerable amount of international cricket to be played across all formats in the next 12 months and the door to national selection is never closed to players outside this list,” Hohns said.
Both Green and Pucovski made their debuts last summer but it’s only the allrounder who makes the list. Green played all four Tests while Pucovski, who earlier in the season hit back-to-back double centuries in the Sheffield Shield before suffering another concussion, made his debut in Sydney where he scored a half-century but was then sidelined by a shoulder injury.
Pucovski is expected to recover in time for the start of next season and is favourite to opening the batting alongside Warner in the Test side for the Ashes and the one-off match against Afghanistan penciled in beforehand.
Green had a magnificent season with the bat for Western Australia where he was the leading Sheffield Shield run-scorer with 922 at 76.83. In four Tests he made 236 runs including a maiden half-century at the SCG. However, he went wicketless in the series – and only collected three in the Shield – as he worked his back from a stress fracture.
“Cameron is a player we believe will play an important role for Australian cricket after his impressive breakout summer,” Hohns said. “His 84 in the second-innings against India at the SCG demonstrated excellent technique and resolve and we are confident his bowling will be impactful at international level. His domestic form was also outstanding, and we expect he will only get better with more international exposure.”
While much of Australia’s schedule over the next 12 months remains to be confirmed, they are due to return to action in July with ODIs and T20s in West Indies before potentially heading straight to Bangladesh for a T20 series.
They are then due to be in Sri Lanka ahead of the T20 World Cup – currently scheduled for India in October – before returning home for a season that is expected to include a one-off Test against Afghanistan ahead of the Ashes that will run from early December to mid-January.
According to the FTP, South Africa are due to tour early next year for white-ball matches before Australia have a full tour scheduled against Pakistan from late February. Australia have not played an overseas Test since the 2019 Ashes with tours of Bangladesh and South Africa postponed due to Covid-19.
Contracts list Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Aaron Finch, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, Tim Paine, James Pattinson, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, David Warner, Adam Zampa