Australia have at least 15 T20Is between now and the T20 World Cup next year, a trophy they have never won. They start with six against Sri Lanka and Pakistan in 12 days beginning in Adelaide on Sunday. Here are some burning questions that need to be answered.
Can the old David Warner return?
There is debate around Warner's Test place, but there really shouldn't be around his place at the top of the order in the T20I side. He was the leading run-scorer in the 2019 IPL and the second-leading scorer in the 50-over World Cup. Bizarrely though, at the last T20 World Cup he was batting at three and four and in his last 13 T20Is he has reached double figures just five times with one half-century. The last time he played a T20I he was also captain, leading Australia to a tri-series victory. There will inevitably be chatter about D'Arcy Short potentially filling his role, but Warner has the chance to quell any doubts.
What is Steven Smith's role?
Smith is the best Test batsman in the world, but he is not the three-format behemoth like Virat Kohli. Smith's T20 record both internationally and domestically is modest and he hasn't played a T20I since the 2016 World Cup as he had been consistently been rested before his ban. During the IPL earlier this year he was dropped by Rajasthan Royals before being recalled and made captain. His career strike rate of 124.19 in all T20s is well below world-class. It appears as though he will be the fulcrum at No. 3 between the dynamic opening duo of Finch and Warner and Glenn Maxwell at No. 4. Given the power around him, the decision to use him in that slot instead of a player like Chris Lynn does make sense. He is a better player of spin, a better runner between the wickets, a better fieldsman and can bowl if need be. But as Kohli proves time and again, No. 3 is arguably the spot for your most versatile and skilled T20 batsman. Is Smith that man?
Who are the finishers?
It appears as though Alex Carey and Ashton Turner will bat at No. 5 and No. 6. Turner is a specialist as he has shown in the BBL and in that remarkable ODI innings in Mohali, but it would be a new role for Carey. He did not get selected in Australia's last two T20Is when Peter Handscomb kept wicket in India in February. Ben McDermott is the back-up option and a curious one at that given just 11 of his 40 T20 innings have come batting below No. 4 and his strike rate drops from 135.20 in the top four to 108.92 when batting at Nos. 5-7. Marcus Stoinis has been dropped with the reason cited that he has had most of his T20 success domestically as an opener - where he batted in his last two games against India - and isn't as skilled as a finisher. Ashton Agar is filling the allrounder role in the current squad, but if Australia are serious about having an allrounder as a finisher at No. 7, then Dan Christian has to be considered. No Australian player has had more experience or more T20 success in that spot in global leagues than Christian and he can bowl critical death overs as well.
Will someone claim the No. 1 spin-bowling role?
Adam Zampa is the No.1 in the current squad with Agar seen as an allrounder but his left-arm orthodox is his primary skill and he is particularly effective in the post-powerplay overs. Nathan Lyon hasn't been selected despite having a better average, strike rate and economy in T20s than both. All three have career economy rates of more than seven per over. Chris Green is a T20 specialist offspinner and has a career economy rate of just 6.72, but he has played a lot of domestic T20s on more spin-friendly surfaces. However, he has the added ability of an outstanding powerplay record. Cameron Boyce should not be discounted after helping the Melbourne Renegades win the BBL title last year. The legspinner played seven T20Is between 2014 and 2016 and bowled impressively.
Which quicks fill which roles?
Australia have picked a well-balanced attack, but they may only play three quicks if Zampa and Agar are selected together, or four if they opt for Agar and Maxwell. It would appear Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc are first-choice options with either Kane Richardson or Andrew Tye to fill the specialist middle- and death-overs' bowler role. Billy Stanlake may only play as the fourth quick because his record in both the powerplay and at the death is not exceptional but his extra pace in the middle overs can be extremely damaging. The question is, can the likes of Jhye Richardson, Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Pattinson or bolters like Sean Abbott and Riley Meredith press a claim during the BBL.
Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Melbourne