Australia’s squad selection for the forthcoming tour of India contains a lot of known faces, but also one or two surprises.
With Andrew Symonds still subject to the disciplinary processes surrounding his removal from the squad to face Bangladesh in the recent One-day International series, the inclusion of Shane Watson as the all-rounder is one of the less surprising changes.
Indeed, the batting as a whole is more-or-less as expected, with Matthew Hayden, Phil Jaques, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey and Simon Katich to choose from. The question is whether the Australians will want to go with five or six specialist batsmen, and if five, who misses out.
It may be Hayden if he is deemed insufficiently fit, still recuperating from an Achilles tendon issue, with David Hussey potentially to be considered as cover if he or Ponting, who missed the Bangladesh games for a wrist operation, are unable to participate.
Brad Haddin keeps his place behind the stumps, having averaged 30 with the bat during the West Indies series in May and June.
It is the bowling, however, that provides the surprises.
Brett Lee, Simon Clark and Mitchell Johnson retain their places as expected, and will be backed up as seamers by Doug Bollinger, who travelled to the West Indies but didn’t feature in the Internationals, and 23-year-old Peter Siddle, who impressed in the recently completed Australian domestic series.
The spin options are somewhat unknowns, however. Both Bryce McGain and Jason Krejza performed well in their brief opportunities in Australia A’s tour of India that has just finished.
McGain is a leg-spinner who took 38 wickets in the 2008 Pura Cup season, and is 36 years old. His selection demonstrates the lack of an obvious successor to Shane Warne, and comes at the expense of Beau Casson who played in the West Indies.
Krejza bowls orthodox off-spin. He is 25 and is very much a surprise selection, only taking 18 wickets in the Pura Cup last year. However he showed well in India, and is making the most of a second chance. Having switched from New South Wales to Tasmania to play his cricket in 2006-7, he was convicted of drink-driving in 2007 and served a suspension from the state side.
The Australian Chairman of Selectors, former Test opener Andrew Hilditch, commented that Krejza’s selection was more about his suitability to bowling in India than his recent state performances, noting that he "had a good season for Tasmania last year but is a selection very much for Indian conditions. The selectors felt right-arm finger spinners would perform well in India".
One of the two spinners is certain to play in India, possibly both if Australia favour two specialists in Indian conditions at the expense of Mitchell Johnson. Much will depend on whether they feel that Michael Clarke’s bowling justifies consideration as part of the attack (He took 6-9 in a losing cause in the Test at Mumbai in 2004).
Without Symonds to provide an off-spinning alternative, I expect the side to line up as follows:
Hayden, Jaques, Ponting, Clarke, Hussey, Watson, Haddin, Lee, Clark, Krejza, Johnson.