Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Melbourne
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It means that Warner and Smith, who also return to the CA central contract list for 2019-2020, could play their first international since the Cape Town Test on June 1 against Afghanistan in Bristol when Australia start the defence of their World Cup campaign. Before that, there is a training camp in Brisbane with three one-day games against New Zealand - not full internationals - followed by warm-up matches in England.
The pair has been using the IPL to help prepare for the World Cup following elbow surgeries. Warner has been in sparkling form for Sunrisers Hyderabad but Smith, whose injury was more severe, has found life a bit tougher for Rajasthan Royals.
Mitchell Starc has been included among a group of five fast bowlers despite not having played in Australia's last 13 ODIs, but there was no room for Hazlewood, who has been sidelined with a back injury since January. The selection panel picked Pat Cummins, Jhye Richardson, who is also returning from a shoulder dislocation, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Jason Behrendorff as the other pacers. Chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns said Starc and Richardson had been selected subject to fitness. Squads can be changed until May 23 without ICC permission.
Handscomb's omission is the most surprising. The return of Smith and Warner meant there was an over-supply of top-order batsmen but it was thought Handscomb's excellent recent record and his skills as a back-up wicketkeeper would almost certainly see him included.
"He's obviously disappointed and everyone is disappointed for him," captain Aaron Finch said. "We knew that there was going to be some really tough decisions and some really big tough calls to be made on the squad and unfortunately Pete was that one. It shows the great strength of our group at the moment that we're leaving guys in really good form out. I think that's a reflection of where we come over the last couple of months in particular so he's obviously disappointed but he also understands."
Handscomb had played each of Australia's last 13 matches, making a century and three half-centuries, averaging 43.54 and striking at 98.15. In Australia's eight-game winning streak on the tours of India and the UAE he was one of only three players, alongside Glenn Maxwell and Ashton Turner, to strike above 100. His 117 in Mohali was pivotal as Australia chased down 359, their highest chase in ODI history. Turner also made 84 not out from 43 balls in that innings but he too has been left out of the 15-man squad.
"Given the depth of talent and competition for spots there were a number of tough calls we had to make to settle on our squad of 15," Hohns said. "Unfortunately, from the recent squad which toured India and the UAE, Peter Handscomb, Ashton Turner and Kane Richardson have made way for the above inclusions, but all three have been included in the Australia A squad for the tour of England.
"Josh Hazlewood has also been named in the Australia A squad. Having not played at the highest level for some time, we feel this will provide him with the best preparation to get some quality cricket under his belt. Our focus is to have Josh back bowling at his best for the commencement of a big Ashes Tour."
Alex Carey is the sole wicketkeeper in the squad, leaving Australia exposed if he gets injured during the warm-ups or any World Cup game. They will rely on the cover available in the Australia A squad, which includes Handscomb, Tim Paine and Matthew Wade although they wouldn't be available for an injury shortly before the toss.
As expected, both Adam Zampa and Nathan Lyon have been included as the two spinners in the squad.
Squad: Aaron Finch (capt), David Warner, Steven Smith, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Alex Carey (wk), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Jhye Richardson, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jason Behrendorff, Adam Zampa, Nathan Lyon