Inquiries by The Tonk this week failed to shed light as to whether that process extends beyond the ratification of leadership appointments by the board. Smith, himself, said on Thursday he was unclear. “It’s probably more of a question for someone a bit higher up,” Smith said.
The Tonk has been told by a senior source familiar with the matter that there has been no specific discussion at board level in which names were mentioned.
There was a belief held by some board members at the time of the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal that Smith’s actions were so serious they should rule him out of the captaincy for good. Many Australians feel the same, but there is also considerable support for Smith to be given the chance at full redemption.
Only chairman Earl Eddings, John Harnden and Michelle Tredenick remain from the administration which imposed the two-year leadership ban.
Selectors have also wrestled with the idea of letting Smith dedicate his energy to being the best batsman he can be without the added burden of leadership. The same thinking, however, could also apply to Pat Cummins – who, as the vice-captain of the Test and limited-overs sides, has the rails run.
In another twist, it has emerged Cummins, who was rested for the last four white-ball games, had inquired if he could return to the camp after it was apparent Finch was in doubt, but that was thwarted by biosecurity protocols.
“I did kind of ask the question but it kind of takes three days to get back in the bubble,” he told The Tonk‘s colleague Chris Barrett.
Khawaja the forgotten man
Selectors have a crisis at the top of the order but Usman Khawaja, the man who has made two centuries as an opener, including one against the pink ball, cannot get a look in.
Though Khawaja has not worn the baggy green since last year’s Ashes, he was still considered highly enough to earn a Test ranking during the last round of contracting.
Despite averaging 51 in the Shield, Khawaja’s omission from the Test and Australia A squads effectively means he is not regarded among the top 13 frontline batsmen in the country.
Though it could be argued selectors Khawaja has enough exposed form not to play him in an “A” game, this has not been conveyed to the former No.3 with a Test average of nearly 41.
“That has been the case in the past, I haven’t had much feedback,” Khawaja told this column. “I haven’t really gone out and asked for it either. I still feel like there’s an opportunity there to play for Australia but I’m still trying to concentrate what’s ahead of me.”
The big winner out of his snubbing is the Sydney Thunder, who are set to have the star batsman for the entire Big Bash League.
Injury list lengthens
Cricket Australia say it’s too early to determine if the recent spate of injuries can be attributed to the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic.
Though yet to conduct extensive analysis, CA say there is no obvious pattern among the injuries showing a link to hotel quarantine, and most were minor apart from David Warner’s groin strain.
Just two weeks into the international men’s season, all-rounder Moises Henriques became the ninth casualty after suffering a low-grade hamstring strain which has ruled him out of the Australia A game under lights starting Friday.
Coach Justin Langer has expressed his concerns to the CA board over the tight schedule enforced by COVID-19.
Warner (groin), Aaron Finch (hip/glute), Marcus Stoinis (side) and Josh Hazlewood (back) all returned from the Indian Premier League, while Mitchell Starc (back and rib), Jackson Bird (calf), Ashton Agar (calf), Will Pucovski (concussion) and Henriques played in the Sheffield Shield.
Back to the Thunder, at a time when cricketers are apprehensive about the game’s biosecurity protocols, leg-spinner Jonathan Cook could not wait to get into the Big Bash League bubble.
Channel Seven may have referred snidely to grade cricketers in its broadcast rights stoush with Cricket Australia but it’s stories like Cook’s which adds to the BBL mix.
The 30-year-old is an environmental planner for the NBN who has been granted extended leave the past two years to pursue his dream.
“I approached my manager at the time: ‘I’ve got this opportunity to play Big Bash, I hope you can give me the leave, it’s an opportunity I can’t really say no to’,” Cook told The Tonk.
“He was like ‘not a problem, we’ll do what we can do’, and they’ve been like that ever since.”
And what would Cook, from the Western Suburbs club, have done if permission was not granted?
“I would have been putting in my resignation, I think. Not even I think, I would have been doing it,” Cook said.
Andrew Wu writes on cricket and AFL for The Sydney Morning Herald