Australian captain Aaron Finch has called on his players to step up their game and perform at their absolute best in the upcoming series against India if they want to cement their spots ahead of the 2019 International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup in England and Wales.
The 32-year-old's comments came on the eve of the beginning of Australia's final leg of away limited-overs games in India ahead of the showpiece event.
Though former skipper Steve Smith and David Warner's year-long bans are all set to end on March 29, the duo's immediate return is unlikely as they are currently nursing elbow injuries.
Finch said that if Smith and Warner failed to return in time, it will be a huge opportunity for young players to step up and almost cement their places with good performances in the two-match T20I series and subsequent five ODIs against India.
"We're seeing Davey [Warner] have some elbow surgery recently, and Steve [Smith], so [important] for that to be in the back of your mind as well. If things don't go 100% right with the rehab, or they have some complications with it and they're not back in time, it's a huge opportunity for guys to step up and almost cement their place going forward for the next little while,"the ICC quoted Finch as saying.
Finch also hinted that Australia might try out with combinations in the India series, given the fact that some of the players have performed exceedingly well in the recently-concluded Big Bash league.
"There's a few options we've got. Obviously, myself and D'Arcy [Short]. Usman [Khawaja]. [Marcus] Stoinis, who's done really well through the Big Bash," Finch said.
"[Alex] Carey did it really well in the UAE for that last game that we played. Yeah, there's plenty to think about and a few options we can go with, and a few combinations. That's something we'll think about,"he added.
Finch, however, indicated that if Smith and Warner will be available, his side can be flexible in their batting order to make room for the duo.
"There's also things you can juggle around in one-day cricket. I've batted in the middle-order quite a bit, Davey's done it the odd time, so whatever we feel is the right combination at the time. I don't think anything's out of the question,"he said.
Australia are heading into the tour of India on the back of their recent 2-0 win in the three-match T20I series against Sri Lanka. The tourists will look to take revenge of their home defeat to India when the two sides head into the upcoming series.
Notably, Australia clinched just two victories in 13 ODIs they played in 2018, but Finch stressed that his side still has 10 games in hand before the World Cup to work on their game.
"We've still got 10 [ODI] internationals, plus five other warm-up games before that first World Cup game, so there's still a fair bit of cricket to go. As long as we keep tracking in the right direction and give India a really good fight and win this series – that'll be what it's all about," he said.
The two sides will play their opening T20I of the two-match series on Sunday at ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium in Visakhapatnam.