Langer: 15-man World Cup squad ‘obvious’
APRIL 9 is expected to be one of Australia's toughest selection meetings in recent memory but coach Justin Langer feels the 15-man World Cup squad is now starting to become obvious.
Langer's team have struck form in their run to cricket's World Cup, backing up a landmark 3-2 ODI series win in India with a 5-0 thumping of Pakistan.
Selectors have a week to decide who to axe for Steve Smith and David Warner, resolve many other conundrums and settle on Cricket Australia's annual contract list.
Ashton Turner, having played three of the past 10 ODIs, will drop out of the 15-man squad.
Shaun Marsh, who scored 61 in Sunday's UAE series finale, and Peter Handscomb are seemingly locked in a dogfight to be the reserve batsman in the World Cup travelling party.
Marsh's versatility and form over the past year counts in his favour but Handscomb's part-time keeping will also be on selectors' minds.
Nathan Lyon and Adam Zampa are all but locked in for their maiden World Cup campaigns after bowling beautifully in tandem during the past month.
Perhaps the most difficult call for Langer and selectors will be deciding whether to include three injured pacemen.
Mitchell Starc (torn pec), Josh Hazlewood (back) and Jhye Richardson (dislocated shoulder) are all racing the clock to be fit for the 50-over tournament.
"That's going to be the biggest challenge I reckon, working out where they are at with their injuries," Langer said.
"There's actually some good depth of talent now. It's not just about three bowlers (Starc, Hazlewood and Pat Cummins). There's a number of guys who we could easily select."
Australia can make changes to its squad without special approval until May 23.
Langer suggested the World Cup squad is "becoming more obvious by the day" to him and selectors.
"There are going to be one or two guys brutally unlucky," Langer said. "Because they're all going so well.
"There's obviously going to be a couple of really disappointed players … all the blokes in the squad at the moment will be praying it's not them."
Langer didn't categorically confirm the inclusion of Zampa and Lyon but praised both tweakers and noted they could offer much-needed flexibility in Australia's campaign that starts in England on June 1.
Langer is still mulling whether to break up Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja's productive opening partnership.
Khawaja and Finch, who shared a 134-run stand as Australia made it eight ODI wins on the trot, have been the team's form batsmen in their recent resurgence.
"This partnership is blossoming ... they did it in the Test series (in the UAE) as well, they seem to gel really well," Langer said.
"They're both pretty chilled out. They work really well together.
"Aaron has had a really good partnership with David Warner as well ... we'll do what's best for the team."
An Australia A tour of England will overlap with the 50-over showpiece, ensuring selectors have match-fit replacements for any injured players.
"We're really lucky … we've got 18 or 19 players who can easily step up and help us win a World Cup," Langer said.
Langer argued the squad's downtime in April would be a dangerous period. "Punter (Ricky Ponting) texted me a couple of daysago and said he wished the World Cup was starting today," he said.
"It's going to be a challenging month. We've got to stay ready."
Meanwhile, Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur has declared Australia will be a threat at the World Cup, having watched them steamroll his team 5-0 in an ODI series.
Arthur, who coached Australia from 2011 until 2013, was thoroughly impressed with how clinical some of his former charges were during the past fortnight.
"I definitely think they are (capable of winning the World Cup). They're travelling really well," Arthur said. "All the final jigsaw parts are coming together nicely.
"Australia look a very, very good side. They will be a threat at the World Cup … I think there's up to seven teams that can win the World Cup."
AUSTRALIA'S LIKELY CUP SQUAD
In: Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, David Warner, Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Adam Zampa
Maybe: Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Jhye Richardson, Nathan Coulter-Nile
Out: Ashton Turner, Jason Behrendorff, Kane Richardson