Australia announces their Test squad for the first Test against India…..
For a brief while, there were speculations of the two biggies – David Warner and Steven Smith – currently serving time for their impromptu leadership decision in South Africa earlier this year, returning to the Test fold for the home series against India with CA reducing their bans.
That, though, went down the drain with CA sticking to their guns and the Aussies are left to compete against the no.1 side in Test cricket – although probably not the best one touring – with a depleted Test outfit.
Making best use of limited resources would be a good tag line the Aussies will want to stick by this summer and they have kickstarted it by welcoming a prolific run-scorer in Marcus Harris to the Test side. The Victorian opener averages 87.40 this season in Shield cricket and is believed to be a modern day Justin Langer in terms of temperament. 1514 runs in the previous season and an unbeaten 250 this time around against New South Wales meant he was knocking those selection doors down. His inclusion left the selectors to ignore Matt Renshaw who was impressive in India when the Aussies toured and Joe Burns, who several felt deserved a recall.
“Marcus Harris has forced his way into the squad after an impressive start to the Sheffield Shield campaign for Victoria, and in recent times has performed in high-pressure matches, including Sheffield Shield finals,” national selector Trevor Hohns said while announcing the squad. “Not only has he made plenty of runs, but he’s also displayed the mental application we believe is required to compete at Test cricket.”
Harris, though, isn’t the only new pick in the Test squad.
Marcus Harris, Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Travis Head, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon, Chris Tremain, Peter Siddle, Peter Handscomb
Chris Tremain, another beneficiary of some compelling Shield performances, finds himself in the radar for a place in the Test side this summer. Tremain had picked up 51 wickets at 21.07 last season and has 24 at 20.45 this time around for Victoria. He will compete with Peter Siddle in the bench with Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood being the three incumbents in the playing XI.
While Tremain and Siddle are likely to remain on the bench unless Australia opt for a four-prong pace attack, one middle-order slot is open for grabs and Peter Handscomb, recalled to the Test side after some work on his technique in the off-season, is vying alongside Travis Head – who pipped Marnus Labuschagne – for the spot.
Head could be benefited by his part-time bowling skills but Handscomb is a wonderful, documented player of spin bowling and against Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, his presence in the middle-order could be enticing.
That, though, isn’t Australia’s biggest concern in this Test squad. There are options in plenty at the top of the order which means there is confusion regarding who opens the batting.
Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, Marcus Harris and Shaun Marsh are capable of opening the innings but only two can and it is likely to be Finch and Harris despite the Victorian coach, Andrew McDonald, believing Finch is better off in the middle-order.
“We’ve picked him in the middle order in the last three seasons I’ve been coach, so that gives you some thought on where I believe he’s best suited,” McDonald said as revealed by Fox Sports.
Khawaja, who returns from injury and is likely to play the first Test, will come in at 3. The southpaw was in exceptional form in UAE and has shown a penchant for big scores making him the idea guy to occupy the no.3 spot, particularly since he isn’t averse to facing the new ball.
“We’ve been really impressed with the way Usman Khawaja has applied himself through his rehabilitation and he’s left no stone unturned in his bid to return in Adelaide,” Hohns said. “Barring any setbacks, all the signs are indicating he will be available for the first Test. We saw how well he performed against Pakistan in the UAE, and we hope he can recapture that form over the summer.”
Shaun Marsh at 4 and Handscomb/Head at 5 come in before Mitchell Marsh and Tim Paine complete the top seven.
The squad is strong although the presence of the Marsh brothers is befuddling considering recent form. The duo, though, were good at home in recent times and considering Langer’s inclination towards the two, their inclusion isn’t entirely surprising. The limited options in batting make Australia’s middle-order pretty vulnerable, particularly if India’s bowlers find their mojo like in South Africa and England.