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Feed our 'starved' T20I players: Ponting

08 February 2018

Australia's T20 assistant coach believes more consistency in player personnel is the only way for success in the shortest format

While a host of Big Bash stars have led a weakened Australia outfit to back-to-back wins over two of T20 International cricket's better teams, assistant coach Ricky Ponting believes Australia will struggle to make major improvements in the shortest format if their best players aren't consistently playing together.

Speaking to ABC Grandstand ahead of Australia's second Gillette T20I tri-series win over England on Wednesday, Ponting revealed a number of Test squad members had actually wanted to feature in the first three games of the series before skipping the New Zealand leg.

Stand-in captain David Warner is the only member of the squad for the upcoming Test tour of South Africa who is playing in the ongoing T20 series. As a result, he's almost certain to miss to the only red-ball warm-up match ahead of the four-Test series against the Proteas.

The final of the T20 tri-series will be held on February 21 in Auckland, while Australia's only tour match begins in Benoni the following day.

In announcing the two squads last month, national selectors explained they wanted to ensure the majority of the South Africa touring party were afforded the best possible preparation.

"The South African Series is a very important one and we have made no secret of our desire to improve our record away from home," chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns said last month. "As such, we wanted to ensure the players had the best possible preparation and that means playing the tour match prior to the first Test."

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In the 19 T20Is Australia have played since the start of 2016, they've have churned through 40 players (22 of whom have played three games or fewer,) handing debuts to 16 players and naming four captains.

Ponting, who looms as a key figure in Australia's renewed focus on claiming their maiden ICC World T20 title, stressed that finding a consistent core of players to pick from must become a greater priority.

"You look back through the last five or six years, we haven't had the same captain for long periods, we very rarely get the best bowling attack in the group for long periods of time because there's other series and tournaments that have taken precedence over T20 cricket," he said.

"These are all the things I've spelled out to Cricket Australia for me to get more involved down the track is being able to prioritise the game and give the captain and players a chance at a good extended run at playing for their country.

"The captain has to learn what the strengths and weaknesses are of certain players in the line-up. Our very best players don't play much T20 cricket at all.

"The national boys are always away when the BBL is on, there's probably four or five guys that play the entire IPL tournament, no more than that.

"So we're actually starved of the T20 game.

"In an ideal world it would be nice to put out your strongest team more often than not. I know there's challenges with that, but until we start doing that I don't think we're going to improve too much."

Speaking of the ongoing tri-series, Ponting added: "I know some of the (Test players) wanted to play the first three (games) then stop and go off to South Africa, but Cricket Australia put a line in the sand and said, ‘you're either completely in or completely out' to give this group the best chance of having a bit of success through the next few weeks."

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Despite missing numerous first-choice players, Australia's new-look T20 side has made an assured start to their tri-series campaign with wins over New Zealand, until recently the top-ranked T20I team, and England, runners-up at the last World T20 in 2016.

The initial efforts of their lesser lights – the likes of Andrew Tye, Kane Richardson, Billy Stanlake, D'Arcy Short and Alex Carey - in the opening two matches could well create some headaches for selectors for future T20I squads.

Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland has forecasted an additional number of scheduled T20Is for the national side in the lead-in to 2020 WT20 on home soil, while a yet-to-be-confirmed T20 tri-series involving Australia, Zimbabwe and Pakistan is on the cards to be played later this year.

While Test players Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Mitch Marsh would appear certain starters in a full-strength Australia T20 XI at present, gauging where a player like Josh Hazlewood figures in the T20 pecking order looms as a challenging task for selectors.

One of the first picked in Australia's Test and one-day teams, Hazlewood has played just three T20 games – domestic or international – over the last four years.

Compare that to Tye, for example, who has played 64 T20 matches over the same period while only featuring in eight first-class matches.

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The silver lining of the Test stars' absence is the chance for the next rung of players to impress, with Richardson mindful of the opportunity this tri-series has provided.

"We're all aware of that," he told cricket.com.au. "Whenever they're rested or injured you know there's an opportunity for the next group of players to put their hands up.

"A lot's been made of pecking orders in Test cricket and there's probably the same in white-ball cricket. if these series are happening when there's a Test series (coming up), there's going to be opportunities.

"It's all about showing your skills, showing that you can play a role."

Gillette T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series

Australia squad: David Warner (c), Aaron Finch (vc), Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Ben Dwarshuis, Travis Head, Chris Lynn, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, D'Arcy Short, Billy Stanlake, Marcus Stoinis, Andrew Tye, Adam Zampa.

England squad: Eoin Morgan (c), Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Liam Dawson, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Dawid Malan, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, James Vince, David Willey, Mark Wood.

New Zealand squad: Kane Williamson (c), Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Tom Bruce, Colin de Grandhomme, Martin Guptill, Anaru Kitchen, Colin Munro, Seth Rance, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Ben Wheeler. 

PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Tickets

First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Tickets

Second T20I Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Tickets

Third T20I Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Tickets

Fourth T20I NZ v England, Wellington, February 14

Fifth T20I NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16

Sixth T20I NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final TBC, Eden Park, February 21

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