Australia v India Test selection: New faces, fringe hopefuls get Sheffield Shield boost

The COVID complexities of the Australian summer could deliver a lifeline to fringe Test players and bolters alike, with selectors set to unleash a super-sized squad to take on India.

In one of the strangest and most complicated selection periods in history, coach Justin Langer is expected to be given a squad of around 18 players when the selection panel announces its group to contest the four-Test series against India.

Typically, the first Test squad of the summer is a 13-man affair, while last year Australia took a monster 17-man squad to England for the Ashes. But they could go even bigger when the Test squad is announced, likely in mid-November.

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Travis Head scored a timely century for South Australia on Thursday.Source:Getty Images

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That will open the door for faces old and new to push their case in the coming Sheffield Shield rounds.

There were initially fears that players, once selected in Test bubble, would be locked in there.

However with restrictions easing around the country, there’s now some hope – depending on what state the players are from – there could be some flexibility to allow fringe players to return to BBL sides.

Cricket Australia is conscious of the mental strain bubble life places on players, and one of its unfortunate drawbacks was laid bare in England when Nathan Lyon went away for seven weeks, including two weeks in quarantine, but didn’t play a single game.

THE LOCKS

Of the 11 who played in Australia’s most recent Test match, the 279-run thrashing of New Zealand at the SCG in January, at least seven are assured of retaining their place in the best XI.

Captain Tim Paine, elite batsmen Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne and David Warner, and bowlers Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins are all assured of playing big roles this summer – as is fellow paceman Josh Hazlewood, who missed the SCG Test with a hamstring injury.

Opening batsman Joe Burns and middle order men Matthew Wade and Travis Head will all be confident of squad selection, but their first-team spots remain the most under threat from the chasing pack.

As if this duo was going to miss out …Source:News Corp Australia

IN THE SQUAD… IN THE TEAM?

Head is seemingly never far from being on the chopping block, but the gritty left-hander firmed up his place in Australia’s best outfit with a timely century against Tasmania on Thursday.

Wade, meanwhile, missed the opening two rounds of the Shield to be with his family ahead of a long summer of quarantine bubbles but will get a chance to push his case when he returns to the bubble to face Victoria next week.

Victorian paceman James Pattinson is another certainty to make an extended squad but, like Queensland’s Michael Neser, will likely find himself behind the NSW trio of Cummins, Hazlewood and Starc on game day.

THE NEW FACES

West Australia youngster Cameron Green has rocketed into the frame for a Test debut following a stunning 197 against a NSW attack boasting Lyon, former Test quick Trent Copeland and Sean Abbott.

Green, regarded as the most promising all-round prospect in the country, has been unable to bowl since succumbing to stress fractures in his back for the second time last summer.

He’s eyeing a returning to bowling in the coming weeks, but is mounting a serious case of being selected purely as a batsman – putting pressure on the likes of Wade and Head at the selection table, with Mitchell Marsh still sidelined through injury.

Victorian dynamo Will Pucovski has been on the cusp of a Test debut in the past, and could easily push his name into discussions for inclusion, while leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson helped bowl Queensland to victory against Tasmania last week.

Cameron Green is making a compelling Test case.Source:Getty Images

THE FRINGE HOPEFULS

Picking a squad of 18 would not just give a chance for some new faces – it could breathe life into the careers of some forgotten Test players.

NSW veteran Moises Henriques put his hand up by crushing 167 against Western Australia, his 11th first class century, this week.

Former Test spinner Ashton Agar hit his third first-class century last week, against, South Australia, and coupled it with a five-wicket haul.

Despite falling down the pecking order after a shambles of an Ashes in England last year, Marcus Harris is just 28 years old and a strong start with Victoria would give selectors something to think about.

Fellow Victorians Nic Maddinson and Marcus Stoinis, as well as Queensland captain Usman Khawaja, would also benefit from runs in the next month.

Originally published asSuper-size Test squad raises hopes beyond the dependable

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