Notts Outlaws suffer T20 Blast blow as Dan Christian departs for Australia
Captain of defending champions handed possible T20 World Cup chance
Dan Christian, captain and inspiration of defending T20 Blast champions the Notts Outlaws, has pulled out of the group stages on the eve of the tournament after winning an international recall at the age of 38.
Overseas withdrawals from England's flagship T20 tournament are a fact of life, such is the crowded nature of the calendar, but this one counts as the most unexpected.
Christian has not played for Australia for nearly four years - a T20I against India in Ranchi - but he now returns to Australia ahead of the tour to the West Indies wondering if he can gain an unlikely selection for the T20 World Cup.
For Notts, this is more than just another overseas drop-out. Arguably no overseas player has been embedded into a county T20 side to such good effect.
Christian has featured in their last seven campaigns and took over as captain as 2016, supervising their development into the most powerful T20 side in England. He has since led the Outlaws to four Finals Day appearances in five years, winning the trophy in 2017 and 2020.
Nottinghamshire's head coach Peter Moores said: "It changes things for us late in the day ahead of the tournament, but first and foremost you can only be really pleased for Dan.
"To be called up again by a nation as strong as Australia, and for that to come on the back of playing some of the best cricket of his career and at the age of 38, it's a great achievement for him. We're proud, as a club, of the role we have played in that.
"It's going to be strange not having Dan around. He's been here for every Blast campaign since 2015 and he's led the side brilliantly as well, but what it will do is create opportunities for other players to step up."
Steven Mullaney will step up to captain the side, whose tournament begins on Wednesday evening against Worcestershire Rapids at New Road. They are regarded as favourites for the tournament, with considerable batting depth, but they are an ageing side and Christian's departure will be a considerable blow.
Christian said: "Getting picked by Australia again is a significant ambition fulfilled for sure, and particularly exciting in such an important year of T20 cricket heading into the World Cup.
"It's disappointing that I won't get to don the Notts jersey this year. It's become a big part of my life in recent times and I'll miss it. But there is depth in our squad and a huge amount of experience in there as well."
Australia's expanded preliminary squad also includes Ben McDermott, the wicketkeeper-batter who was due to feature in the Blast with Derbyshire. His call-up is a further blow to Derbyshire, after they lost Australia fast bowler Billy Stanlake to injury.
David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps