News Analysis

Tim David's ODI call-up is not just about filling a gap

The selectors are looking at contingencies should injuries be a problem, and the T20 star has the ingredients to be a success

Alex Malcolm
Alex Malcolm
Tim David's late surge took Australia to 186, India vs Australia, 3rd T20I, Hyderabad, September 25, 2022

Even in T20, Tim David has shown another side to his game  •  BCCI

It would not have been a surprise to anyone that Tim David's name was absent from Australia's provisional World Cup 15-man squad.
His quiet addition to the ODI squad for the upcoming series against South Africa barely raised an eyebrow back in Australia.
But his call-up is not just an experiment where he keeps a seat warm while Australia wait for the return of injured batters Steven Smith and Glenn Maxwell. It seems clear that David, without an ODI to his name, and just 16 List A games on his resume, the last of which was in November of 2021, is being primed as a very real option for the World Cup if Maxwell's previously broken leg causes him any more serious issues.
It is very un-Australian to put a T20 specialist into such a big spot just a month out from a major tournament, and the troubles of David's Mumbai Indians team-mate Suryakumar Yadav in converting his T20 dominance to ODI runs are a cautionary tale for Australia's selectors.
But anyone doubting David's ability to perform in the longer format should be equally cautious because his development as a cricketer suggests otherwise.
It was in David's very first international series for Australia where he showcased some of the situational skills the selectors are hoping he can produce in his first ODI series.
In Hyderabad against India in September 2022, he made 54 off 27 balls. Typical Tim David, right? But this wasn't typical Tim David. It was the manner in which he put the innings together that sowed the seed for his potential inclusion in ODI cricket down the line.
He's a very good player of spin. He bats well in India. It doesn't surprise me that he's been added to that [ODI] squad
Glenn Maxwell on Tim David
With Australia batting first, he walked in at 84 for 4 in the 10th over, far earlier than any finisher would prefer to enter. Australia would slump to 117 for 6 before the end of the 14th over. Instead of hitting his way out of trouble, David methodically went through the gears to reach 25 off 19 balls. He hit just two boundaries and faced just five dot balls.
It was almost completely risk-free. He hit the ball to the sweepers to rotate the strike and picked up two well-placed twos. His boundary shots were relatively low risk. One was a lofted off drive from a generous Harshal Patel half-volley, the other a lovely, controlled late cut off Hardik Pandya. He took the innings deep to the 18th over, with the help of Daniel Sams, before he finally unleashed "typical Tim David", launching three sixes and a four in his last eight balls.
David did something similar in the first T20I against South Africa, the day before his call-up to the ODI squad had been confirmed. He entered at 77 for 4 in the eighth over after Australia had lost 3 for 8. He scored 9 off 9 without hitting a ball in the air as he steadied alongside Mitchell Marsh. He slipped gears when he got the match-up he wanted, walloping Tabraiz Shamsi for two sixes in an over to start an assault that ended with 64 off 28 to help Australia amass 226 for 6.
It was an innings that even Maxwell noted was a window into David's talent beyond just T20 cricket.
"I think the way he batted in that first [T20I against South Africa] showed great maturity, and a great level head," Maxwell said. "I think any time you bring a player in who's in good form, he's got a history of great power hitting at the back end, but what we probably haven't seen a lot on the international stage from Tim is that style of play where he is able to get through a tough time. He's a very good player of spin. He bats well in India. It doesn't surprise me that he's been added to that [ODI] squad."
But ultimately those two innings are still less than 30 balls faced in total, and less than 10 overs at the crease all up. Finishers in ODI's can sometimes be called on to mount far longer rescue missions. Maxwell's last ODI century in 2020 came off 90 balls across nearly 32 overs as he helped Australia chase down 303 against England having slumped to 73 for 5.
That is where David's development as a cricketer will hold him in good stead. He has an astonishing List A record, averaging 82.77 and striking at 123.14 with two centuries and five half-centuries. Admittedly four of those half-centuries have come in Associate matches for Singapore against attacks from Qatar, Denmark, Vanuatu and Malaysia. But he made two stunning centuries for Surrey in the 2021 Royal London Cup batting at No. 4.
Dating even further back, prior to him becoming a T20 franchise gun for hire and power-hitting machine, after changing his batting priorities under his coach Jim Allenby, 50-over batting was his bread and butter in Western Australia Premier cricket for his club side Claremont-Nedlands.
In the same club competition in Perth where his current Australia team-mates Marcus Stoinis, Ashton Agar, Cameron Green and Josh Inglis all cut their teeth, David was a dominant force in his late teens and early 20s, particularly in the 50-over format. Playing with white balls and under the same fielding restriction rules as the current version of ODI cricket, David's middle-over smarts against spin, his situational ability to slip through the gears and use his developing power judiciously were rare traits for a young player.
It's that talent that gives Australia options whenever he does get his chance in this ODI series. The obvious use of him would be as a finisher at No. 6 or 7, but the indifferent ODI batting form of Stoinis since the last World Cup, and David's superior prowess against spin means he could be a tempting disrupter in the middle overs to change the trajectory of an innings.
How much of an opportunity David gets remains to be seen as Australia balances trying to plug their short-term injury holes with bedding down their World Cup plans. But he's proven he can handle high-pressure moments. If he does during this series and injuries remain a worry, Australia's final 15-man squad might look slightly different.

Warner back in Australia's XI

Australia have David Warner back in their XI after he missed the T20Is, with captain Mitchell Marsh to start at No. 3. Alex Carey and Josh Hazlewood are the two players who did not play the T20Is who have been included in this XI.
Australia XI for 1st ODI vs South Africa: 1 Travis Head, 2 David Warner, 3 Mitchell Marsh (capt), 4 Cameron Green, 5 Josh Inglis, 6 Alex Carey (wk), 7 Marcus Stoinis, 8 Sean Abbott, 0 Ashton Agar, 10 Adam Zampa, 11 Josh Hazlewood

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo