On Thursday afternoon Chief Selector Trevor Hohns named a fourteen man squad, he described as featuring a talented group of batsmen and bowlers who had displayed good form in the Sheffield Shield competition, for Australia’s opening Test against India. The two newest faces in the squad, Marcus Harris and Chris Tremain, the most obvious examples with the pair owing their places to fantastic performances at domestic level this summer.
Despite 14 players being named there was no room for two from Australia’s last Test XI, with Marnus Labuschagne and Jon Holland both informed their services were not required at the Adelaide Oval. Hohns advised that the squad would be trimmed to 12 before the commencement of the First Test to allow the two unlucky players the opportunity to play Sheffield Shield. This process will also be followed for each Test Match of the summer.
THE SQUAD: Tim Paine (c), Pat Cummins, Aaron Finch, Peter Handscomb, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazelwood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Chris Tremain.
Usman Khawaja’s recovery is going well.
The biggest shining light of Australia’s tour of the UAE was the form of Usman Khawaja, which made his knee injury the most devastating blow of a disastrous series. While reports have continued since his return that his recovery was going well, it wasn’t until his name was read out for the Test Side that we truly believed he could be ready. If fit and firing, Khawaja could provide the platform upon which Australia regains the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
Marcus Harris is mediocre no more.
Just last week we spoke of Justin Langer’s verbal send off to Marcus Harris as he left Western Australia for Victoria a few seasons ago. Rather than express disappointment at losing a talented young batsman, the then Western Australian Coach had a different message for the West Australian Newspaper. “His performances have been mediocre with flashes of brilliance,” Langer told The West Australian newspaper. After having suggested
It would be wrong for us to take credit for Harris’ selection but is it really a surprise that, after suggesting that ‘mediocre with flashes of brilliance’ could also describe Shaun Marsh, he has been brought into the side? All jokes aside, the selection is a just reward for Harris who has consistently scored runs in recent seasons. With two hundreds to his name from his two Shield Finals he has shown he can rise to the occasion. As a result he looks likely to get the chance to prove himself at the games highest level.
Handscomb is still in the mix.
It would appear unlikely that the Victorian skipper will make the final cut for the First Test but his selection in the squad would be a welcomed nod from the selectors that he is still in the frame. After a spectacular JLT Cup series in which he led his team to victory in the final, he hasn’t had as successful a return to red ball cricket in the Sheffield Shield. His 123 against South Australia though suggests his best is more than good enough if he can rediscover his consistency.
Australia’s Fast Bowling stocks are deep.
With Australia’s regular pace trio, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazelwood and Pat Cummins, all available there were bound to be a few unlucky trundlers left out of the First Test Squad. Peter Siddle’s performances in the UAE demanded his inclusion in the squad as did the Sheffield Shield returns of Victoria’s Chris Tremain. The selection of the quintet meant there was no room for Michael Nesser and Brendan Doggett, who toured with the Australians to the UAE, or Scott Boland the leading wicket taker in the Sheffield Shield this season to date.
Shield Runs count. When it suits.
Trevor Hohns was at pains to advise that, with selection of this squad, Sheffield Shield form had been rewarded. On face value, with a mixture of incumbency and runs behind the selections of Mitch and Shaun Marsh, and Marcus Harris knocking down the door with runs, it is hard to argue with the assertion. Tasmanian fans might suggest otherwise though.
Our friends from the Apple Isle might point out that while Marsh and Harris are top three for runs scored and averages*, there are a couple of players in both categories who appear to have been overlooked without consideration given Peter Handscomb’s selection. Alex Doolan is the Sheffield Shield’s leading run-scorer, but another Tasmanian has even greater claims to a place in the squad – Matthew Wade. Averaging 82 with the stick he has scored four 50’s and a hundred in 2018/19. He might not be the answer to our middle order problems but the Chairman of Selectors should at least have to answer why he isn’t.
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*Among the top 10 leading run scorers