Usman Khawaja to lead Australia A on tour of South Africa
CRICKET Australia has named squads for the Australia A tour of South Africa in July, giving renewed confidence that the current impasse that has locked negotiations over a new pay deal can be resolved.
Among the 20 players named are Ashes hopefuls and key figures who would be affected by any strike action should a new pay deal not be signed off before the current national contract deal runs out on June 30.
Glenn Maxwell and Usman Khawaja - who could both benefit greatly from the opportunity to cement their places in the Test team with strong performances - headline the list of big names who would be free agents should no deal be struck in time.
Moises Henriques, who has been named in the Australia A one-day squad, is rumoured to be on an extensive list of players who is on a multi-year state-level contract and could feasibly be called on by Cricket Australia to cross the picket line regardless of the outcome of the protracted and increasingly heated negotiations.
CA's high-performance manager Pat Howard said the pay dispute wasn't a factor when picking the squad.
"Selectors have chosen this squad irrespective and independent of the status of the MOU (memorandum of understanding)," he said.
"We are confident that there will be a resolution in place by 30 June and look forward to continuing to support these players to perform at their very best on the global stage."
Khawaja, who has been a mainstay of Test teams on home soil but was overlooked throughout the recent series defeat in India, has been named captain of the four-day squad, with Maxwell his deputy.
"Khawaja is a proven leader and has captained Australia A before, he will gel nicely with Glenn who recently had some captaincy experience in the IPL and we believe will respond well to this extra responsibility," said national selector Trevor Hohns.
South Australian quick Chadd Sayers - the leading bowler in the Sheffield Shield with 62 wickets in the most recent season - earns a well-deserved call-up, while the likes of Ashton Agar, Travis Head and Hilton Cartwright are all on national contracts and have Test cricket on the mind.
"We have opted for a well-balanced squad featuring some experience blended with younger players, with an emphasis on building our depth for the future," Hohns added.
"This is a great chance for these players to experience foreign conditions against a quality international sides and really test their skills.
"With an upcoming Test Series in South Africa early next year it is also an opportunity to impress with their performances and put their names forward for consideration."
Four-day: Usman Khawaja (C), Glenn Maxwell (VC), Ashton Agar, Cameron Bancroft, Jason Behrendorff, Jackson Bird, Alex Carey, Hilton Cartwright, Travis Head, Kurtis Patterson, Chadd Sayers, Mitchell Swepson, Chris Tremain, Jack Wildermuth
One-day: Travis Head (C), Ashton Agar, Jason Behrendorff, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Hilton Cartwright, Sam Heazlett, Moises Henriques, Daniel Hughes, Kane Richardson, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Swepson, Chris Tremain, Jack Wildermuth
Australia A tour of South Africa
Four-day matches: July 12-15: Australia A v South Africa A at Tukkies
July 19-22: Australia A v South Africa A at Senwes Park
July 26: Australia A v India A at Tukkies
July 30: Australia A v South Africa A at Groenkloof
August 1: Australia A v India A at Tukkies
August 5: Australia A v South Africa A at Tukkies
August 5: Tri Series Final at Tukkies