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Cricket in 2020 Faces Tough Questions In Wake of COVID-19 Pandemic

LONDON (AFP) – When it comes to Australian cricketers taking their places in world cricket’s greatest XI in September, few have an easier time of it compared with Aussie Test skipper Tim Paine. The opener is the most decorated player in history but he might not be able to play in New Zealand as planned and instead will take his place in the England team after being omitted from the white-ball tour as well as from last year’s final ODI series against South Africa when he was in red-ball form, reports suggest.

“He’ll probably just go there and try and make a few runs and see what happens, that’s all we know,” said Andrew McDonald, former chief executive of English players’ union IPL. “He’s such a great player and brings a lot of experience but unfortunately injuries to some of the other guys have been getting him out. So fingers crossed things get better before the tournament gets started.”

Paine, who has played in every one of T20Is since 2016 and led Australia to its first World Cup title last year with three hundreds in three appearances, would have thought he had more chance than playing in Asia while he was still captain of Brisbane Heat squad until 2019 when the COVID-19 pandemic threw everything off course, forcing matches to be called off and teams to be cut apart for tours.

As recently as February 11, Paine was also absent from the limited overs squads for India’s tour of Bangladesh, West Indies and Pakistan which included two ODIs and five List A games, including four Tests. He later tested positive for covid.

In contrast Sri Lanka’s Dinesh Karthik, regarded as a future master of the format, did not travel with England and missed the second Test in Galle in April this year as both sides were unable to fulfil contracted agreements.

The current crop includes Virat Kohli returning to India, Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne continuing with England and Kane Williamson leading New Zealand, though their fitness levels are far lower than those of their rivals.

However, given Australia’s record with overseas tours, it remains unlikely they can send any of them back home for now.

“There’s definitely going to be pressure on Virat Kohli, especially if he’s fit and available,” said veteran wicketkeeper Jason Gillespie of the Royal Challengers Bangalore last week. “But I think he has enough talent in the group to stay here for as long as possible. I believe the likes of Joe Root and David Warner are capable of playing longer spells in the middle order.”

The T20 format provides plenty of opportunities to rotate players across formats, but so much depends on whether or not Australia select David Warner’s replacement Matthew Wade and Aaron Finch’s role in the top order is altered too. Both are likely to miss the upcoming series in New Zealand and as such there will be huge rotation concerns next month.

Australia’s chances of winning the 50-over World Cup have not improved despite the additions of Matthew Wade and Kane Williamson, but the latter is expected to return to domestic action after missing out during the limited overs series in India.

“I don’t think anyone is sure what shape he’ll be in come October but I think there are going to be changes ahead of the 2023 World Cup,” added Gill.

“There’s no way [he] wants to do anything less than 200 first innings innings.”

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