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Aussie skipper Mitch Marsh tests positive for COVID-19 ahead of T20 series opener

Australian T20 captain Mitch Marsh may have to shout instructions to his teammates in the opening T20 against the West Indies in Hobart after testing positive to Covid on the eve of Friday’s clash.

Teammate Matthew Wade took his place at a media call on Thursday and confirmed the Australians were ‘expecting him to play’ after he skipped training on match eve preparing to play a visiting side bolstered with reinforcements having being humiliated 3-0 in three ODIs.

Former captain and gun all-rounder Jason Holder and global T20 star Andre Russell are among those joining Windies for the three-game series, having narrowed their 2024 focus to being at the peak of their powers for a home World Cup, with the T20 tournament being held in the Caribbean and USA in June and July.

The matches also mark the launch of Australia’s World Cup preparations with veteran opener David Warner joining the squad after a shocking time in the ILT20 in the United Arab Emirates, during which the 37-year-old managed just 115 runs in eight innings as captain of the Dubai Capitals.

Warner, who is now a T20 only player for Australia, faced 117 balls, hit just seven fours and three sixes, with a high score of 42 and six scores of 20 or less, including three in single figures and the spotlight is on him with players including Travis Head, Josh Inglis and Matt Short jockeying not just to be his opening partner at the World Cup, but potentially squeeze him out.

Australian skipper Mitchell Marsh has come down with COVID-19

Marsh is still expected to play and will keep his distance from others on the field

Marsh is still expected to play and will keep his distance from others on the field

Glenn Maxwell is also back for Australia, his first outing since being hospitalized in Adelaide.

The Windies T20 outfit, however, looms as a different challenge to their ODI outfit and that’s not lost on Wade who said the three-match series was crucial for the Australians to ‘get our combinations’ together months out from the World Cup, being held in the Caribbean and USA.

‘They’ve got world-class players coming back,’ Wade said of the visitors.

‘If you look through their line-up, there’s guys that have done well in franchise cricket over a long period of time.

‘They’re a completely different beast in T20s, that’s kind of where they’ve made their name a lot of these guys in the last four or five years.

‘It’s exciting to get the boys back together leading into a World Cup. It’s important for us to start to get our combinations together.

‘We just deal with it like everyone has been over the last two or three years.’

The West Aussie last week won the prestigious Allan Border Medal

The West Aussie last week won the prestigious Allan Border Medal

Marsh will follow Cricket Australia protocols, which include operating out of a different changeroom, and keeping his distance on the field.

That could make captaining the team difficult, but Wade said teams had become used to handling it.

‘He (Marsh) got crook yesterday, he’s rested enough to train today, and we’re expecting him to play,’ he said.

‘We just deal with it like everyone has been over the last two or three years.’

Marsh’s presence is crucial as the game is the first of six T20 clashes, with another three to come against New Zealand, to prepare for the World Cup title defence.

Selectors have not locked in a permanent captaincy replacement for Aaron Finch, who led Australia to World Cup victory in 2021, where Marsh was player of the final.

But Marsh has been picked as captain for the three matches against the Windies and three against the Kiwis despite the presence of Test skipper Pat Cummins and his vice-captains Steve Smith and Travis Head.

Marsh’s standing in the Australian cricket family was enhanced last week when he was crowned the Allan Border medallist for the first time after a bumper 2023 that included his Test return with a century in the Ashes and a mammoth innings of 177 against Bangladesh at the ODI World Cup in India.

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