In-form ODI batsman Pete Handscomb is "desperately unlucky" to miss out on a World Cup place, says national selection panel chair Trevor Hohns, but the selection chief says he's comfortable that Australia will enter the tournament without a back-up wicketkeeping option.
Handscomb's versatility as a genuine gloveman was not enough to earn the Victorian selection in Australia's 15-man squad, announced on Monday, with veteran batsman Shaun Marsh retained and the returns of Steve Smith and David Warner effectively squeezing Handscomb out.
The 27-year-old has played in all 13 of Australia's ODIs in 2019, piling up 479 runs at 43.54 with a strike rate of 98.13.
That record also includes three fifties and a maiden ODI hundred, with the right-hander seemingly finding a home as a reliable and rapid middle-over accumulator.
That role, however, had previously been expertly filled by Smith – a fact Hohns explained ultimately cost the Victorian his spot.
"Pete was desperately unlucky, I can't deny that," Hohns said in Brisbane on Monday. "It just so happened that Steve Smith and David Warner were coming back, somebody had to miss out, and we think Steven can play the same role that Peter did in the batting line-up.
"Pete excelled in the role he was given, there's no doubt about that. But he's on standby and he'll be involved in the Australia A tour."
Handscomb appears to have been missed out on what may prove to be the back-up batting spot in the squad to Western Australian veteran Marsh, whose credentials over the past 12 months evidently proved irresistible to selectors.
Despite a brief lean patch on the recent tour of India, Marsh has piled on 851 ODI runs in 18 ODIs across the past 12 months, with four hundreds and three fifties, an average of 53.18 and a strike-rate of 91.60 to be Australia's second-most productive batsman (after Aaron Finch, with 852 runs in 21 innings).
In England last year, the left-hander was one of few bright spots in a five-nil whitewash defeat, scoring two hundreds in five innings, an achievement that would doubtless have played into his favour during selection discussions.
World Cup skipper Finch, who has himself kept wickets in a fill-in capacity at domestic level, said he was content with having just the lone specialist gloveman in the squad, echoing Hohns in citing the Australia A tour running concurrently with the tournament as an adequate source of insurance should injury befall frontline gloveman Alex Carey.
"With the amount of options that are going to be there with the Australia A (squad) – with Pete, 'Wadey' (Matthew Wade) and Tim (Paine) all being in England, that's enough cover any kind of significant injury if, heaven forbid, it does happen to Alex," Finch said today in Melbourne.
"I think there's enough cover there in the UK that can be called upon at short notice."
Handscomb and Wade are both part of the Australia A one-day squad that will play five 50-over matches between June 20 and July 2, while Paine will captain the four-day squad, which plays its first match from July 7, two days before the first World Cup semi-final. Handscomb and Wade are both also part of the Australia A four-day squad.
It means the lack of a back-up keeping option will only truly hurt Australia should Carey be ruled out on the morning of a game and leave no time for a replacement to be called in from outside the squad.
Finch said he's exchanged text messages with Handscomb since news of his axing was confirmed, adding the fact he was overlooked underlines the strength of the squad.
"He's obviously disappointed and everyone's disappointed for him," Finch said. "We knew there were going to be some really tough decisions and some really tough calls, and unfortunately he was that one. As a player, you understand that it's a really difficult decision.
"It shows the great strength of our group at the moment, that we're leaving out guys in really good form. There's some really unlucky guys, which is a reflection of where we've come in the past couple of months."
Australia's World Cup fixtures
May 25: (warm-up) England v Australia, Southampton
May 27: (warm-up) Australia v Sri Lanka, Southampton
June 9: India v Australia, The Oval
June 12: Australia v Pakistan, Taunton
June 15: Sri Lanka v Australia, The Oval
June 20: Australia v Bangladesh, Trent Bridge
June 25: England v Australia, Lord's
July 9: Semi-Final 1, Old Trafford
July 11: Semi-Final 2, Edgbaston
July 14: Final, Lord's
For a full list of all World Cup fixtures, click HERE