Melbourne: Star batsman Marnus Labuschagne and two other Test players, Joe Burns and Matthew Wade, have been added by Cricket Australia to its list of 20 contracted players for the 2020-21 season.
The value of each contract is still uncertain because of the coronavirus pandemic which has forced Cricket Australia to furlough the bulk of its staff.
Players are usually ranked by selectors and paid an income that corresponds to where they are rated on the list but COVID-19 uncertainty continues to affect the upcoming schedule and Cricket Australia's revenue projections.
Among those upcoming events in doubt are the men’s Twenty20 World Cup, which Australia is scheduled to host in October and November. The Australians are also scheduled to host a series against India involved four Test matches, three one-day internationals and three T20Is.
Labuschagne didn't have a central contract last season but is expected to be one of the most highly ranked players for 20-21 after a strong Ashes series in England and home summer against Pakistan and New Zealand.
Labuschagne scored four half-centuries against England after joining the Ashes series midway through the second test as Steve Smith’s concussion substitute. He then added three centuries and one double century in five tests in Australia.
He also made his ODI debut in January and has scored 305 runs in six innings at an average of 50.33, including his first ODI century against South Africa in Potchefstroom.
Usman Khawaja, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Marcus Harris, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh and Marcus Stoinis were dropped from the list, making way for Ashton Agar, Mitchell Marsh, Kane Richardson, opening batsman Burns and veteran wicketkeeper-batsman Wade.
“We feel all deserve their inclusion recognizing the performances of those players in the past 12 months and, as importantly, what they can offer in the next 12 months,” chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns said on Thursday.
“Marnus’ rise has been meteoric and well documented, Joe has been a good test match player, Ashton Agar’s form in T20 internationals has been exceptional, while Kane Richardson has been outstanding in the 20-over and one-day games."
Cricket Australia 2020-21 men's contracted players list: Ashton Agar, Joe Burns, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Aaron Finch, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Tim Paine, James Pattinson, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Adam Zampa.
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Labuschagne, however, credited the Indian bowlers for being disciplined early on and hardly giving away any scoring opportunities.
Smith has faced accusations he had been trying to cheat by scuffing up batsman Rishabh Pant's guard at the crease during the tense drawn third Test at Sydney, which left the series locked at 1-1.
The Sydney Test is set for an intriguing final day in which India will primarily try to bat out three sessions.