Cruel snub as Clarke’s fear comes true
FORMER captain Michael Clarke was right to be worried Usman Khawaja would miss out as selectors finalised Cricket Australia's contract lists for the most uncertain of summers.
Chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns on Thursday revealed the identity of the 20 men who made the cut for 2020-21, during which Australia is slated to host a T20 World Cup and face India in a much-anticipated Test series.
Six new faces appeared on the list while Khawaja missed out on a deal for the first time in six years.
Nathan Coulter-Nile, Marcus Harris, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh and Marcus Stoinis also missed the cut, none of them playing for Australia since last year's marathon tour of England, which included a World Cup and Ashes series.
West Australian all-rounder Ashton Turner was also a notable omission.
Speaking on the Big Sports Breakfast earlier on Thursday, Clarke said even though Khawaja was talented enough to be playing all forms of the game, he was in danger of missing the cut - a prediction that turned out to be true.
"The big talking (point) is Usman Khawaja. I think Uzzie is extremely talented and could play all three formats yet for some reason he sees himself out of the Australian set-up all together," Clarke said.
"If that's the case, if that's what the selectors feel, then I feel someone like Uzzie, who would have been highly ranked last year, you could see someone like that drop out of the contract list."
Khawaja, the senior batsman in the side during Steve Smith and David Warner's year-long ball tampering ban, was dropped during last year's Ashes and even though he was Australia's most in-form 50-over batsman heading into the 2019 ODI World Cup, was unable to produce his best after sliding down the order to No. 3. He hasn't worn the coloured clothing since injuring his hamstring in Australia's final group game against South Africa.
Test batsmen Marnus Labuschagne and Joe Burns have earned places on the contract list alongside Matthew Wade, Mitchell Marsh, Kane Richardson and Ashton Agar after those players initially missed out on contracts last year but received upgrades during the past 12 months.
Labuschagne scored himself a deal courtesy of stellar performances in the Ashes and the last home summer. He registered four half centuries against England after joining the series midway through the second Test as Steve Smith's concussion substitute, and he crunched three tons and one double century in five Tests Down Under against Pakistan and New Zealand.
Labuschagne also made his ODI debut in January and has scored 305 runs in six innings at an average of 50.33, including a maiden century against South Africa in Potchefstroom.
"Definitely top 10, the fact he's playing Test cricket and he's just got his foot in the door in one-day cricket, there's no doubt he'll see himself quite high up the rankings," Clarke said of the right-hander before the contract list was announced.
Players are ranked by selectors and paid an income that corresponds to where they sit in the pecking order, with top-ranked Pat Cummins believed to have pocketed a base salary of approximately $2 million in 2019-20.
However, The Australian reports Warner, who won this year's Allan Border Medal despite a disastrous Ashes, may knock his fast bowling teammate off the top rung because of his magnificent home summer and brilliant World Cup.
Clarke said who made the cut would depend on how much weight selectors put on different forms of the game. Although coronavirus has turned everything upside down, the 39-year-old said a focus on T20 cricket ahead of this year's scheduled World Cup might open the door for players like Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Marsh - stars who've been in-an-out of favour - to earn a contract.
Those two did just that, but other short-form specialists Stoinis and Chris Lynn weren't as fortunate.
Shawn Flegler, who heads the women's selection panel, also announced the 15 players set to feature prominently in Australia's ODI World Cup campaign next year.
Tahlia McGrath was named despite last playing for Australia in 2017, while Erin Burns and spinner Molly Strano missed out even though they were part of this year's victorious T20 World Cup squad.
Batters Nicole Bolton and Elyse Villani also failed to land a contract while young fast bowlers Tayla Vlaeminck and Annabel Sutherland were rewarded with deals.
COVID-19 uncertainty continues to cloud this summer's schedule and CA's revenue projections, ensuring stars will be notified of what percentage cut of the overall pool of funds they will take home rather than a set figure. The governing body's financial woes have not affected the number of contracts being handed out this week.
CA remains in talks with the players' association after CEO Kevin Roberts stood down the vast majority of CA's staff for the rest of the financial year. Roberts, speaking to staff during a video chat on Wednesday, apologised for the manner in which he communicated the need for such drastic measures.
The CA chief executive will address state counterparts on Thursday, hoping to get a 25 per cent cut to their funding across the line.
State associations will be able to finalise their own domestic contracts after CA's lists are submitted.
CA contract list (men): Ashton Agar, Joe Burns, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Aaron Finch, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Tim Paine, James Pattinson, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Adam Zampa
CA contract list (women): Nicola Carey, Ashleigh Gardner, Rachael Haynes, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Delissa Kimmince, Meg Lanning, Tahlia McGrath, Sophie Molineux, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Tayla Vlaeminck, Georgia Wareham