The announcement of the Australian squad for the upcoming tour of India certainly came with some surprises. Glenn Maxwell, Ashton Agar, Mitchell Marsh and Shaun Marsh have all been recalled to the squad, as well as newcomer Mitchell Swepson, a young leg spinner from Queensland.
Frankly, I don’t agree with a few of these decisions.
The first of these is Glenn Maxwell. Why is he there? He is not a player suitable for test cricket. He is a player who, apart from a solid 2015 World Cup, has shown nothing but inconsistency and no regard for his own wicket. His recent form was not demanding he be picked, and his three test matches played in India and the UAE were unimpressive, scoring a total of 80 runs at 13.33. If Australia loses a couple of early wickets, can you see Maxwell coming in and saving an innings?
Mitch Marsh is also a player who is lucky to be recalled. I would have Hilton Cartwright in there instead of Marsh. The selectors have again gone back to their chopping and changing, giving Cartwright just one game in the baggy green. He looked solid in his one innings for Australia, scoring 37 before being bowled by a brilliant delivery from Imran Khan, and was not given much chance to show what he can do with the ball. Why not give him more time to prove himself?
Mitch’s brother Shaun is also back in the test squad, largely because of his ability to play in subcontinent conditions. One would expect he’ll be fighting for either Matt Renshaw or Usman Khawaja’s current spot in the starting XI. Both Renshaw and Khawaja have earnt those spots and I hope the selectors stick with them for at least the first couple of matches to give them a chance to prove they deserve them. However, Marsh could also come in to fill the no. 6 spot. Whilst he prefers batting up the order, he is a versatile batsman and can play anywhere in the batting lineup. I like him to fill the vacant no. 6 position.
Matthew Wade can feel lucky that he has held his place as Australia’s wicket keeper. He was brought in as a replacement for Peter Neville because it was believed he could score more runs. He didn’t, scoring just 50 runs in 5 innings at an average of 12.5. His keeping has improved from the last time he was in the team, however it is still not at the level of Neville. A wicket-keeper batsman is still a wicket-keeper first, and given the tough conditions of India, Neville would have been the better pick here.
Another surprise is the selection of leg spinner Mitchell Swepson, picked after playing just 14 Sheffield Shield matches. It was his impressive performances for Australia A (14 wickets at 19.35 in three matches) as well as his current BBL campaign (9 wickets at 20.11) that have put him there. I don’t mind this; picking a young, upcoming player. It worked with Renshaw, and time will tell whether it’ll work here.
However, what I am worried about is the selectors getting too carried away with picking spinners. Our spin bowling is not the strength of our attack, it is our pace bowlers. Given there are only three frontline pace bowlers in the squad (Starc, Hazlewood and Bird), and five players who can bowl spin (Lyon, O’Keefe, Agar, Swepson and Maxwell), it seems that two spin bowlers will be playing for the better part of the series. I don’t think this is a good idea. Australian spinners have largely been unsuccessful in test matches in Asia. Even the great Shane Warne did not succeed over there as one would expect a man of his talents should.
To have the best chance at winning, I believe the best option is go with our strength and pick three pace bowlers. Jackson Bird is coming off a solid summer, taking 13 wickets in his three test matches, showing he can combine well with Hazlewood and Starc. Nathan Lyon has done enough to hold his spot as Australia’s no. 1 spin bowler, and whilst he has struggled playing in Asia (42 wickets at 42.57 in 11 matches), he is still the best option Australia has, with O’Keefe to replace him should it be required.
No matter who plays, Australia will face an uphill battle to win this series against the number 1 test side in the world. Here’s hoping the questionable selections prove me wrong and Australia wins just their second series in the subcontinent in 47 years.
Squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Ashton Agar, Jackson Bird, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Stephen O’Keefe, Matthew Renshaw, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, Matthew Wade.
My ideal starting XI from the squad
- David Warner
- Matt Renshaw
- Usman Khawaja
- Steve Smith
- Peter Handscomb
- Shaun Marsh
- Matthew Wade
- Mitchell Starc
- Nathan Lyon
- Josh Hazlewood
- Jackson Bird