His BBL coach Greg Shipperd believes the allrounder could fill one of the troublesome middle-order spots
Thirty-eight-year-old Christian, who last played for Australia in 2017, was one of six players added to the large preliminary squad ahead of the tours of the West Indies and Bangladesh with the expectation that a number of those involved in the IPL will make themselves unavailable for the trip.
“It’s a unique format of the game and he’s got a unique skillset as a strong finisher through the middle and at the back-end with the bat, he’s got the capability to bowl a couple of intelligent, player-specific overs right across the three phases with the ball,” Shipperd said on the day he signed a two-year extension as the Sixers coach which takes him to the end of the 2023-24 season.
“He’s a super fieldsman but there’s also a wealth of cricketing strategy and knowledge that resides in his brain and he’s a real giver in any team he’s involved with. If you’re going into a specific tournament, they’ve got a couple of World Cups coming up, he’s a strong choice. He’s in form, he’s fit and strong, he’s got a lot of positives going for him. I hope he gets game time and performs really well and gets an opportunity to play in the World Cup.”
Christian, these days a freelancing T20 specialist, was also at the IPL before it was suspended but headed to England to take up his deal with Nottinghamshire for the T20 Blast which he has now withdrawn from to undertake a two-week quarantine back in Australia ahead of leaving for the West Indies.
He has previously spoken of not giving up hope of adding to his 16 T20I caps despite the lengthy time since his last selection having enjoyed an impressive 2020-21 BBL season for the title-winning Sixers after moving from the Melbourne Renegades who he also helped to the title in 2018-19.
If he makes it into the final XI on the upcoming tours it would be in one of the middle-order positions that has proved troublesome for Australia to fill as they try to balance their T20I side.
In last season’s BBL he made 272 runs at 34.00 with a strike rate of 182.55 which included a 16-ball 50 against the Adelaide Strikers and an unbeaten 61 off 38 balls to guide a chase against Brisbane Heat. Though he was less prolific in the first part of the PSL and IPL before each was suspended, Shipperd lauded the clarity he can bring to tough game situations, going as far as to say it “blows my mind” that he can often do it while on the player microphone.
“It is indeed a very specialist role and it’s about calmness and clarity in the moment. And being fearless,” he said. “He’s at the stage of his career where he’s using his experience wisely and he’s not playing for the next year or next major contract, he plays with this fearless but experienced mindset that allows him to take the best option.
“It’s rare for a player to be mic-ed up as he often is in those phases and be taking the commentators and viewers through what he’s thinking and doing. As a coach that blows my mind so just shows the poise he has and he’s using his experience well.”
Shipperd picked out Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Marsh, Daniel Sams and Sean Abbott – the latter facing a significant recovery period after a hamstring injury playing for Surrey – as other candidates for the Australia middle order but the depth of Christian’s CV holds him in good stead.
“A lot of other players haven’t been in those moments and dealt with that pressure, made the call, succeeded and failed,” he said. “He balances those yo-yos that this form of the game throws at you particularly well. He presents as such a valuable player for a tournament. I would be pushing and promoting him competing strongly for one of those positions.”
Australia’s large preliminary squad, which currently numbers 29, will be trimmed to around 19 before the team leaves at the end of June. The West Indies tour includes five ODIs and three ODIs followed by five more T20Is in Bangladesh although dates for those matches are yet to be confirmed.
In terms of their final build-up to the T20 World Cup in October – which is expected to be moved from India to the UAE – there will then be the question of whether players will be able to return to the IPL which is due to resume in mid-September in the UAE.
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo