MITCHELL JOHNSON: Decision time looms for Mitch Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins

Mitchell Johnson
The Nightly
 Jake Fraser-McGurk, Will Sutherland, Xavier Bartlett and Matt Short could all be part of the next World Cup squad.
Jake Fraser-McGurk, Will Sutherland, Xavier Bartlett and Matt Short could all be part of the next World Cup squad. Credit: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

As Australia begin long-term planning for the next T20 World Cup in 2026 and the next 50-over World Cup in 2027, the most significant issue is what will the ‘big three’ quicks do.

It’s hard to see Mitchell Starc, 34, Josh Hazlewood, 33, and Pat Cummins, 31, continuing to play all three forms of the game for that stretch of time. So decision time will come soon.

Starc has long hinted that when the time comes to cut back on his workload in an effort to prolong his international career, it will be the shorter forms that he ditches in favour of putting everything into Test cricket.

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That is fine that he feels that way. It’s also an interesting decision for an ageing fast bowler, because one-dayers and Twenty20 cricket are less stressful on the body and many would opt for white-ball cricket to wind down their career.

If Starc – and any of the other senior players for that matter - did decide to retire from T20 international cricket it’s a call that needs to be made fairly soon, so planning can swing into action for the next event in India and Sri Lanka in February-March 2026.

The big three have managed to play all three forms for a long time, with the aid of a rest here or there. It’s not easy to maintain high standards playing all three formats and franchise cricket on top of that, so I feel we may see a shift there.

Cummins is the youngest of the trio, but with the extra load of the Test and one-day captaincy and signing up for different T20 tournaments, he has a lot on his plate and we may see him exit T20 internationals due to the worry of burnout.

So there could be plenty of opportunity when it comes to replenishing the bowling stocks but I think the talent is already there. Next summer’s Big Bash League will be a great chance for players to showcase their skills and a few players have already been doing that.

I would say Nathan Ellis leads the list as he was part of the recent World Cup squad and played with success. Ellis brings plenty of variety and is a good finisher option. Spencer Johnson might be a good exchange for Starc and Lance Morris, Xavier Bartlett and Ben Dwarshuis have all had success in the BBL.

It’s widely assumed young gun Jake Fraser-McGurk will replace David Warner at the top of the order but let’s not forget Matt Short, 28, who should be thrown into the discussion.

ANTIGUA, ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA - JUNE 18: Nathan Ellis of Australia during a net session as part of the ICC Men's T20 Cricket World Cup West Indies & USA 2024 at Coolidge Cricket Ground on June 18, 2024 in Antigua, Antigua and Barbuda. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
Nathan Ellis during a net session as part of the ICC Men's T20 Cricket World Cup. Credit: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

The wicketkeeper position is an obvious change, with Josh Inglis in for Matthew Wade, with Wade a bit of an odd selection anyway.

The toughest decisions going forward might revolve around the all-rounder spots and where Glenn Maxwell, 35, and Marcus Stoinis, 34, fit in as the next generation of all-rounders including Cam Green, Aaron Hardie and even Will Sutherland push hard. Sean Abbott and Ashton Agar should also remain in the mix.

Maxwell has been a key player in Australia’s white-ball teams but will be 37 by the time of the next T20 World Cup and 39 at the next ODI World Cup. So there’s a discussion to be had there.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 25: Matt Short of Australia bats during game three of the Men's T20 International series between New Zealand and Australia at Eden Park on February 25, 2024 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)
Matt Short of Australia bats during game three of the T20 International series between New Zealand and Australia. Credit: Hannah Peters/Getty Images

T20 cricket has long proved to be a game for experienced players and I don’t think we’ll see a massive overhaul of Australia’s T20 side. But the next level of talent is there in Australian cricket and that will create its own pressure, which is what you want to see happening.

The start of a new World Cup cycle is about finding what combinations work and giving players the opportunity to play together. Now is not a time to play it safe and stick to the comfort of what we know. It’s a time to get some of our known Big Bash performers into the mix.

Potential Australia squad for 2026 T20 World Cup: Mitch Marsh (captain), Travis Head, Jake Fraser-McGurk, Matt Short, Cam Green, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Josh Inglis (wk), Tim David, Aaron Hardie, Spencer Johnson, Nathan Ellis, Josh Hazlewood, Xavier Bartlett, Adam Zampa.

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