With emphasis on the World Cup in May 2019, Australia have revamped their contract list with five new players added to an initial group of 20. Steven Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft were not part of that number after receiving bans of up to one year in the wake of the ball-tampering scandal from last month. All three men would have served out their suspensions by the time the first match of the global event begins on May 30.
Tim Paine - who was not among the contracted players in 2017-18 when CA released the list last April - found a place this time, and is likely to be among the highest earners, given he is Australia's new Test captain. The other first-timers on the list were allrounder Marcus Stoinis, wicketkeeper Alex Carey and the fast-bowling Richardsons - Kane and Jhye. Australia have also placed their trust in fingerspinners at a time when wristspin has taken limited-overs cricket by storm, with Nathan Lyon and Ashton Agar edging out Adam Zampa, the team's top-seeded slow bowler on the ICC rankings for both ODIs and T20Is.
Australia have a system by which players gain points based on appearances at international level: five for a Test, two for an ODI and one for a T20I. Those out of contract can earn one for themselves by collecting at least 12 points - a method that Paine, Stoinis, Shaun Marsh and Andrew Tye used over the course of the 2017-18 season to get retainers for themselves. Adam Zampa, Chris Lynn and D'Arcy Short might be targeting this option as Australia build towards the World Cup with limited-overs tours of England and Zimbabwe in June and July.
The other notable absentees were Chadd Sayers, who made his Test debut in Johannesburg recently, and Jackson Bird, often the back-up for Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins. Injury forced Nathan Coulter-Nile and James Pattinson out of reckoning, although the latter hopes to be fit in time for the next Ashes series in 2019.
"There has been a bit of a focus in this contracting period on white-ball cricket, as we look ahead to trying to win back-to-back World Cups," national selector Trevor Hohns said.
As such, some of the brightest performers from the Big Bash League were rewarded with Australia contracts: Carey came into the fray after finishing as the second-highest run-scorer in the 2017-18 edition. So did Kane Richardson, who was among the top 10 wicket-takers. Jhye Richardson enjoyed the selectors' favour again, two months after he was picked in the Test squad to tour South Africa even though, at the time, he had played only five first-class matches.
"Alex (Carey) is the second wicket-keeper in this squad, alongside Tim Paine," Hohns said. "He is a promising young player who has had a strong domestic summer and performed well in his international opportunities to date with bat and gloves.
"Jhye (Richardson) is a young fast bowler who has been on the fringes of selection in all three forms of the game. He's an exciting prospect who has played ODI and T20 cricket for Australia this summer, and was in the Test squad for the recent tour of South Africa."