Aaron Finch’s desperation to overcome a hamstring injury in time to lead Australia at the looming World Twenty20 has come to nothing, with selectors axing him as captain on the eve of the tournament.
The end of Finch’s 17-month tenure as captain will be confirmed when Australia release their 15-man squad for next month’s tournament.
Steve Smith will step up as captain in the only format he was not yet in charge, having succeeded Michael Clarke in Tests and one-dayers at the end of last year’s Ashes series.
Smith was not handed the Twenty20 captaincy last year when he officially succeeded Clarke as Cricket Australia did not want to overburden him.
However, the smooth transition he has made to the top job has convinced decision-makers he is ready.
Finch has been training daily at the MCG as part of his rehabilitation from a hamstring injury he suffered in what will be his last match as Twenty20 captain, on January 29 at the MCG.
He is on track to be ready to resume playing well before Australia’s Twenty20 series in South Africa in early in March.
CA declined to comment on any aspect of the composition of Australia’s squad for the World Twenty20, to be held in India.
It had been reported the move to oust Finch was due to his injury, however selectors were set to drop him from the one-day international side for the fifth game against India.
The situation changed, however, when Finch made a century in game four and Glenn Maxwell was injured.
There have been discussions behind the scenes for some weeks on the option on replacing Finch with Smith.
The stunning form of Usman Khawaja and Shane Watson as top-order candidates to partner David Warner has also fed speculation over the position of Finch, despite him being ranked as the world’s top Twenty20 batsman until the recent series against India.
Given none of Australia’s selectors are in Melbourne it is unclear how news of the change in captain has been conveyed to Finch.
It is also unclear whether the 29-year-old will be retained in Australia’s squad, under new captain Smith, for the three matches in South Africa and also the World Twenty20.
The sparse scheduling of Twenty20 Internationals meant Finch led Australia in just six matches during that period, winning three.