South Africa tour may cloud Twenty20 vision

Australia's bid to emerge as a Twenty20 international force before the home world cup in 2020 could be tempered by another scheduling clash this summer.

The underperforming Australian side is ranked seventh on the International Cricket Council's T20 rankings, and has yet to claim a World Twenty20, making only one final in six attempts.

Cricket Australia wants its men's team to be ranked No.1 in all three formats of the sport, and heightened its focus on T20 this year when Mark Waugh and coach Darren Lehmann were named as specialist short-form selectors. A specialist Twenty20 coach has also been mooted.

However, Australia could again be without a handful of its front-line players, particularly pacemen Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins, in their next T20 series.

Once the Ashes is over, Australia and England will clash in five one-dayers before New Zealand join both nations for a T20 tri-series in February, split between Australian and New Zealand shores. The T20 series begins in Sydney on February 3 and ends with the final in Auckland on February 21.

This means Australia could again have two teams playing concurrently, because the bulk, if not all, of the Test squad is likely to leave on February 14 for South Africa.

Australia will have a warm-up clash before the Test series opens in Durban on March 1, meaning selectors and national high-performance boss Pat Howard will have to determine the best preparation for players. The deliberations will involve whether to allow some to take part in the T20 campaign before heading to South Africa or initially to rest and head to South Africa.

Steve Smith could yet captain the T20 side through the tournament then fly immediately to South Africa, where he would still have about a week to rest and practise, but perhaps not play in the warm-up clash.

CA says the bowling loads of Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins will be assessed once the Ashes is over. They are likely to be managed through the one-day series and then potentially put on ice before facing the Proteas, where four Tests will be held in little more than a month.

Their absence would dent Australia's hopes of defeating England and the Black Caps and lifting the T20 side up the rankings.

Sri Lanka prevailed 2-1 against an under-strength Australian T20 side in February when Australia's best players were in India preparing for the Test series there.

That there were two Australian sides playing simultaneously angered players, amid suggestions this was devaluing national selection. The player concerns came at a sensitive time in pay negotiations when relations with head office were starting to wane.

Howard said at the time all parties had to accept there could be a short crossover in the odd tour because of a tight FTP - a point the governing body again echoed on Thursday.

Australia's last Twenty20 campaign, captained by Warner with Smith hurt, ended in a drawn series with India. The decider was washed out.

CA chief James Sutherland has made it clear he wants the team to play more T20s heading into the showpiece event in 2020.

"There will definitely be more [international] T20 cricket, but we'll also be quite strategic about it in terms of scheduling matches to create experiences for the development of our team," he said in October.

"One of the things we'll be doing is thinking carefully about where we might put more emphasis on one-day cricket, say, leading into World Cups or the Champions Trophy. Then more emphasis on T20 cricket when we're leading into a WT20 event."

This story South Africa tour may cloud Twenty20 vision first appeared on The Age.