Calcutta: Australia named four spinners — Xavier Doherty, Steven Smith, Nathan Lyon and Glenn Maxwell — in their 17-member squad for the four-Test series against India, which starts in Chennai on February 22.
The selectors decided to go for four spinners so that the side can exploit the spin-friendly conditions in the subcontinent.
For the record, Glenn Maxwell along with Moises Henriques are the two uncapped members in the squad.
James Pattinson, who was out of cricket due to a rib injury and side strain, also made a comeback to the Test team, while Peter Siddle, Jackson Bird, Mitchell Starc and Mitchell Johnson are the other pacers who were included in Australia’s five-strong pace attack.
The veteran Ben Hilfenhaus, who has not played since breaking down during the Hobart Test in December, was not selected, and nor was Steve ’Keefe, the leading spinner in the Sheffield Shield this summer.
The large squad is an attempt to cover all bases as the Australians acclimatise to life without both Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey.
Vice-captain Shane Watson, who had sustained a left calf injury while bowling on Day I of the Boxing Day Test against Sri Lanka in December, was included as a specialist batsman.
Explosive opener David Warner, who has been ruled out of the first two ODIs against the West Indies on Friday and Saturday due to an injured thumb, was also picked in the squad and also back in the mix was batsman Usman Khawaja.
“This squad has the flexibility that will be required for the varying conditions expected in India, and it will provide valuable experience to a number of young players,” selection committee chairman John Inverarity said.
“In aiming for more depth in a bowling attack, the squad would allow for three pace bowlers, a leading spinner and Maxwell, or two pace bowlers, the two spinners and Henriques. These are two of the options,” he added.
Australia will play two warm-up games in Chennai on February 12-13 and February 16-18 ahead of the first Test starting at the MA Chidambaram Stadium on February 22.
Some members of the Test squad will fly to India while the West Indies limited overs series is still on, in order to better prepare them for the conditions.
“We have a good opportunity for members of the squad to get well acclimatised to the conditions,” Inverarity said.
Doherty hasn’t played Test cricket since his two Tests in the Ashes defeat at home in 2010-11 but his recent form in limited over cricket saw him selected.
“We certainly feel he is much improved in the longer format of the game since he made his Test debut in 2010-11 against England,” said Inverarity.
Inverarity was also confident that David Warner will be part of the team in Chennai, despite suffering a fractured thumb. It appears unlikely that Warner will take any part in the one-day series, although Inverarity said he was expected to be fit for the Tests in India.
Meanwhile, Cricket Australia has roped in Dennis Lillee to provide guidance and coaching advice to the national side ahead of the Test series.
The 63-year-old will also act as a mentor to the budding pacers of Australia. “He will work closely with full-time bowling coach Ali de Winter as Australia prepare to tackle India in a Test series next month and then the highly-anticipated Ashes series starting in July,” Cricket Australia said.
Michael Clarke (captain), Ed Cowan, David Warner, Phil Hughes, Shane Watson, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith, Matthew Wade, Glenn Maxwell, Moises Henriques, Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Xavier Doherty, Jackson Bird