Cricket contract list exposes glaring weak points
Australian cricket's 20-man contract list has many strengths but two well-hidden soft spots which no amount of deck-shuffling can solve.
The first is the batting wasteland behind Marnus Labuschagne and the second the spin bowling vacuum behind Nathan Lyon.
Labuschagne pocketed a $1 million-plus pay rise for he was not even on the contract list last season and would surely have earnt a ranking well inside the top 10 on the strength of his extraordinary year.
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But all around him, for the fringe-dwelling batsmen, there was contract carnage as Usman Khawaja missed out for the first time in five years and Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh and Marcus Harris lost their deals.
Nic Maddinson and Will Pucovski, who both battled mental health issues last summer were obvious omissions, meaning Australia has no idea who its next Test batsman will be.
That is why Labuschagne is such an important player and why a rookie such as West Australian all-rounder Cameron Green could easily bound into contention for Test selection next summer.
It's also why Khawaja, 33, remains a fighting chance of returning to international cricket.
Allan Border told Fox Sports he felt Khawaja's omission was "a little strange" given Australia's lack of batting depth but after fading from national selection last year the numbers were against him.
Selection chairman Trevor Hohns said the door was not shut on the batting enigma, describing him as "one of the unlucky ones'' who "just fell out the bottom of the list" and claiming there was no reason why he could not return to the Test team as an opening batsman and that it could depend on where he bats for Queensland.
That leaves Khawaja to face the interesting selection poser of whether, as Queensland captain, he should open the innings to maximise his chances of Test selection.
Hohns said Khawaja received rankings in two forms of the game but the lack of room for him in the 50-over side and his recent Shield form weighed against him.
The spin bowling depth is also an issue which the irrepressible Lyon continues to mask with his remarkable "all surface" game.
Leg-spinner Adam Zampa got a deal on the strength of his white ball prowess but his modest first class record means he is little chance of playing Test cricket.
Pat Cummins, once Australia's most fragile talent but now an iron man, was believed to be the No 1 contracted player.
Originally published as Cricket contract list exposes glaring weak points