Pat Cummins is one step closer to skippering Australia after being named vice-captain ahead of Alex Carey and Steve Smith in the 21-man squad heading to England.
Cricket Australia (CA) broke with tradition and opted for dual vice-captains in the aftermath of the 2018 ball-tampering scandal, wanting to share the leadership load in the same fashion as many AFL clubs.
Cummins and Carey both acted as Aaron Finch's understudy during last year's ODI World Cup.
But selectors feel now is the right time for Cummins, who has long been touted as Australia's next captain in all formats by Michael Clarke, to fly solo.
It was the biggest shake-up in the touring party named on Friday, which featured potential debutants Josh Philippe, Daniel Sams and Riley Meredith but was far larger than normal because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"This decision is not an indicator for any predetermined succession planning," CA's high-performance boss Ben Oliver said.
"It's really about who we felt was best placed to perform the VC role for this tour, this format.
"We also have great confidence that if needed to take the field as captain that Pat will do a great job."
Olivier noted the decision applied specifically to this tour, which was originally scheduled for July and will now end Australia's six months in pandemic-induced exile.
However, he added there are no active plans to rotate the vice-captaincy.
Cummins' appointment is the latest sign that Smith, whose CA-imposed leadership ban expired in March, may struggle to return to the post he occupied when the Cape Town cheating crisis erupted.
"Steve Smith has been a fantastic leader coming back into the group," Oliver said, also praising Carey's leadership.
"But for this particular tour we felt Pat, having come from that role, was well placed to continue."
The squad will fly out of Perth on August 23, play four warm-up matches in Derby before shifting to Southampton for Twenty20s against England on September 4, 6 and 8.
The series will wrap up with ODIs between the rivals at Old Trafford on September 11, 13 and 16.
Cummins, who is set to earn approximately $3.2 million in the Indian Premier League, headlines the list of players expected to head straight from England to the United Arab Emirates for the T20 bonanza.
The rescheduled IPL runs until November 8.
The tournament usually falls during players' leave period, but now precedes a one-off Test between Australia and Afghanistan in Perth on November 21-25 that remains in doubt.
Oliver suggested CA is still working with its Indian counterpart regarding when Cummins, Smith and other stars will likely return home from the IPL.
"Our starting point is to support the tournament, support the players to have the opportunity to play," Oliver said.
"We also need to make sure that we are doing everything we can to support our home summer."
Australia's senior assistant coach Andrew McDonald, who is widely regarded as Justin Langer's likely successor, is missing the tour of England to fulfil a commitment as coach of IPL franchise Rajasthan Royals.
Australian Associated Press