Travis Birt and Steve Smith in line for T20 debuts
Steve Smith and Travis Birt could make their international debuts on Friday night after being named in Australia's 13-man squad for the Twenty20 match against Pakistan at the MCG. The selectors have picked a radically different outfit from the one-day squad in what is the strongest indication yet that they have learnt their lessons from past World Twenty20 failures.
Michael Clarke will captain the team with Cameron White as vice-captain in a group that does not feature Michael Hussey, Peter Siddle, Nathan Hauritz, James Hopes, Clint McKay or Adam Voges. After Australia crashed out in the first round of the World Twenty20 last year, the selectors were criticised for choosing a squad not suited to the format.
The next World Twenty20 is in the West Indies in May and Australia have five Twenty20 internationals before then to fine-tune their side. For Friday's game, they have chosen several men who have shone in the shortest format at domestic level, including the clean-striking Tasmania batsman Birt and the New South Wales allrounder Smith.
The fast bowler Dirk Nannes, who has been a Twenty20 star for Victoria, was chosen after making his Australia debut last year, while Shaun Tait was also named along with Ryan Harris. David Warner and David Hussey were the other Twenty20 specialists chosen.
"On this occasion there are significant changes between the one-day and Twenty20 side as we look at several players who could play a key role in our World Twenty20 campaign," the chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch said. "The national selection panel has always regarded Twenty20 cricket as a separate form of the game and this selection has highlighted some players who we think can have an impact in Twenty20 cricket such as Dirk Nannes, Shaun Tait, David Warner, Travis Birt and Steve Smith.
"Travis Birt has shown really good white ball form for several seasons now and we have picked him with a view to him playing a specific role in the middle order in the Twenty20 side. Steve Smith is obviously an extremely exciting prospect and performed well for NSW in the Champions League Twenty20 and KFC Twenty20 Big Bash and gives us great flexibility with his ability to bowl leg spin, bat and field.
"Ryan Harris also is someone who has been in the plans of the NSP for the World Twenty20. Ryan's chances have been limited by injury but he's now back to full fitness and playing very well."
Australia squad Shane Watson, Shaun Marsh, David Warner, Michael Clarke (capt), Cameron White, Travis Birt, David Hussey, Steven Smith, Brad Haddin (wk), Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris, Dirk Nannes, Shaun Tait.