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Talking points: Travis Head among batters told to earn their spot, pace rotation on agenda

Alex Carey also remains in Australia's Test plans, while Matthew Wade may yet play the T20 World Cup

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
Australia named a smaller than usual men's contract list on Friday which will cover a period including the T20 World Cup and the Ashes. Here are a few of the talking points that emerged from the announcement.
Earn promotion
This was the over-riding message, especially when it comes to the Test batting line-up. Standout candidates are not obvious for a couple of positions, so the race will be on ahead of the Ashes next season. That means there are vacancies yet for an opening partner for David Warner - although you could argue that despite another injury, Will Pucovski couldn't have done much more to be first-choice opener - and the No. 5 spot while assuming Cameron Green has locked himself in at No. 6, which him being given a contract suggests.
Travis Head can probably feel a little hard done by despite being dropped against India. He had been in the squad for the originally scheduled South Africa tour although he wasn't a certainty to make the XI, and scored 893 Shield runs for South Australia. But the move to clearly say batting positions are open should give the start of next season an edge.
Matthew Wade and Joe Burns see Test hope fade
Wade made an irresistible case for a Test recall - which came for the 2019 Ashes - but did not make an irresistible case to be retained. In the two Australia seasons prior to his return, he averaged 52.34 with part of that coming when the Test side was shorn of Warner and Steven Smith. There was a school of thought that the recall could have come earlier. And when it did, he made two centuries against England and has played every Test since, but an overall return of 31.60 - with just one other score over fifty - was not enough. The writing was on the wall when he was left out of the squad for the postponed South Africa tour, with a loss of contract confirming the slide.
And although Burns is two years younger than Wade but will need a very big start to the next season to push himself back into the frame, especially if Pucovski's recovery goes to plan. However, as he showed with his brilliant 171 against Tasmania, at his best he remains a very fine opening batter.
Australia will need far more than 17 players
Despite not being on today's list, Wade is among a number of players who we are still very likely to see in Australia squads over the coming months. Touring parties are going to need to remain large due to Covid-19 restrictions and along with Mitchell Marsh and Marcus Stoinis, Wade is an incumbent in the T20I side where he has been vice-captain - and briefly captain - in Pat Cummins' absence.
All three stand a very good chance of being in the squad for the West Indies tour in July. There could also be plenty of others: the likes of Josh Philippe, Daniel Sams and Riley Meredith, who were all in New Zealand, will be pushing for T20I spots even when the first-choice players who missed that trip are available.
Rotation back on the agenda
Australia fielded the same bowling attack throughout the four Tests against India and although the loads were relatively light in the first two games, by the end of the Gabba Test, there were some tired bodies. With six Tests likely in less than two months next season - one against Afghanistan and five against England - chief selector Trevor Hohns suggested another look at workload.
"That comes back to the management of our fast bowlers and we've seriously got to have a look at it," he said. "Sure, they may feel okay in themselves but we've really got to monitor that a little bit harder I think."
On the fringe
Two players who featured in the recent Sheffield Shield final will wonder what next season holds. Michael Neser and Mitchell Swepson were always unlikely to gain central contracts, but they have certainly made strong cases for a chance at Test cricket. Neser has been an ever-present in Test squads over the last two years, while Swepson has just completed the season of his life. Hohns indicated that James Pattinson remains the next in line of the quicks - so Neser may need a couple of players to make way, especially if and when they are rested or rotated - but he had a strong endorsement of Swepson.
"He can certainly challenge Nathan [Lyon], whether he'll ever take his place while Nathan is fit who knows," Hohns exclaimed. "Mitch is going very nicely and it's quite exciting to see a legspinner emerge and someone with the talent Mitch has, I can certainly see a bright future for him. He's still only 27, and as far as a spin bowler goes, is coming into his best years."
Alex Carey's standing
Carey is only in possession of a place in one of the three formats for Australia - the ODI side - but retains a contract. He lost his spot in the T20I side to Wade against England last year and wasn't able to reclaim it against India. Carey then missed out on the New Zealand tour after being included in the Test squad for South Africa.
That latter position confirmed he is next-in-line behind Tim Paine, but it is an interesting year coming up for Carey if, in 12 months' time, Paine will have brought the curtain down on his career. No doubt he will be eager to get back into the mix for the T20 World Cup, but it could work in his favour if he stays out of the set-up because it would allow him a run of Sheffield Shield cricket early next season. Watch out for Josh Inglis coming up on the inside as well.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo