Fringe talent to form new Matador Cup team
World Cup-holders Australia have broadened the field from which future generations of the national team may be chosen by adding a Cricket Australia XI to the 50-over Matador Cup for next summer.
As first flagged by the CA team performance manager Pat Howard last October, a squad of 15 fringe talents will be pulled together once the six states have chosen their teams for the tournament, which will again be played at the outset of the season.
It will not be the first time the limited-overs competition has been expanded, having featured the Canberra Comets in the late 1990s and even a New Zealand team in earlier years. The team will be mentored by the National Cricket Centre head coach Troy Cooley, with assistance from Graeme Hick.
CA's desire to allow more opportunities for emerging players to take part in first-class competition has been heightened in recent years by the displays of the National Performance Squad, which performed strongly in Top End limited overs fixtures last winter, including one defeat of Australia A.
The allrounder Sean Abbott emerged from that squad and made his international debuts in Twenty20 and ODI matches during the matches against Pakistan in the UAE in October. Howard said CA was eager to usher through more talents by finding out how they coped with strong competition from state sides.
"We know we've got the talent and we want to be able to expose these players to more high-pressure game time to help the states and to help the overall national cause," Howard said. "We're really excited about these player pathway initiatives. We want to keep rejuvenating our players and create the competition for places to improve performance.
"We will assess how the extra Matador Cup team goes after two seasons, with a key measure for us seeing the best young talent coming through our system and progressing into state teams and the Sheffield Shield."
Other progressive measures to be unveiled next summer include the expansion of the second XI competition so all states play six four-day matches across the season, up from four apiece in 2014-15.
Junior players will also be fast-tracked via a new system of talent identification, whereby the best players at the national Under-16 carnival will form a representative team that faces the states in the national Under-17s championship. Likewise, the best of the Under-17s will then be drawn into a new team at the Under-19s tournament.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig