Ed Smith has provided the strongest hint yet that Joe Root is likely to miss out on the T20 World Cup and that there will be no Test comeback for Adil Rashid.

Explaining Root's absence from England's squad for the T20 section of their tour to South Africa, Smith insisted the door for a recall was not shut. But he also suggested Root would continue to be "rested" from T20 cricket at the start of next year. With England currently focused on settling on a line-up ahead of the T20 World Cup less than a year away, that would appear to provide a clear indication of their intentions.

And while Smith has previously suggested Rashid could be in line for a Test recall, he has now admitted his troublesome right shoulder means such a scenario "doesn't seem likely" in the immediate future.

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Had it not been for a dramatic last over, Root could easily have been named player of the match in the last World T20 final. But although there have been glimpses of brilliance in his T20I career, his strike-rate since that final - 107.16 - is modest and the aggregate of runs - he has averaged 29.90 in that period - insufficient to compensate. With Dawid Malan, in particular, taking his chances when offered - in the same period, Malan is averaging 48.71 at a strike-rate of 146.66 - Root's position as the accumulator has been squeezed. And, having not bowled in T20I cricket since September 2017, Root has had little chance to compensate with his spin.

Smith's hint that Root would continue to be rested from T20Is in early 2021 is also revealing. England are due to play both Tests and limited-overs series in India at the start of next year. It would seem perverse not to include Root for the T20 segment of that tour if he is a serious candidate for the T20 World Cup, which is scheduled to be played in the same country from October in the same year. By contrast, all England's IPL stars - the likes of Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer - have been included in this T20 squad despite their busy recent schedule. Root hasn't played a game since September 20.

So although there were flattering words from Smith about Root's inherent class and ability when the squad was announced on Tuesday, it was hard to avoid the impression they were there for consolation.

"It's obviously true that Joe Root stays outside that T20 set-up for now," Smith, England's national selector, said. "We're very aware just how great a cricketer Joe Root is; he's one of England's greatest ever cricketers. If there was a major tournament around the corner - as there will be next autumn with the T20 World Cup - we could easily include him.

"But as it stands he's not in the starting XI in T20s. And it's also the case that Joe is one of those people who will need to have some rest over the next year. If I had to make a prediction, I would say that England would use T20s to rest Joe Root in early 2021.

"That doesn't mean that he's in any way ruled out or couldn't come in for a major tournament later on in the year. But looking after players like Joe Root who are so central to England's success is very important."

Root's involvement in the T20 World Cup cannot be completely ruled out. Such is his desire - he appeared for Yorkshire the day after England's international summer was concluded - and such his ability, England could yet come calling once more. Equally, with Moeen Ali and Rashid the only two frontline spinners in England's squad, it could yet be the selectors conclude Root's spin could play the sort of role they once saw Joe Denly providing.

But his opportunities to prove himself in the format would appear to be thin on the ground now. As a key part of England's Test and ODI squads, he has little time to appear in franchise cricket and, when he has done so, his record has been modest. He could, at a push, yet make an impact in The Hundred or even in the inter-squad games that preface this tour.

It was only a few weeks ago that Smith was expressing the hope that Rashid could play a part in England's Test plans over the next few months. It now seems he has reluctantly concluded this is unlikely. Rashid hasn't played a first-class game since January 2019 since when he has suffered a significant shoulder injury.

"Adil is making a very successful comeback from a serious shoulder injury which kept him out of cricket for the second half of 2019," Smith said. "He's doing really well and that shoulder is getting better all the time.

"But at the moment there is a real question mark about whether Adil feels it's the right thing to do to push that by playing in four and five-day cricket. That doesn't seem likely in the immediate term. However, I think Adil is an exceptional all-round cricketer in all formats and there might be a time when that's something he feels able to do."

Although England did not announce the coaching set-up for the tour, ESPNcricinfo understands that Marcus Trescothick will fulfil the role of consultant batting coach.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo