The Australian selectors sprung a surprise by naming uncapped legspinner Mitch Swepson in the squad for the tough tour of India next month. Swepson was chosen as one of the four specialist spinners in the team, keeping in mind the fact that Indian surfaces are expected to offer a lot to the slow bowlers. Swepson has played 14 first-class matches, and has claimed 41 wickets at an average of 32. Apart from Queenslander Swepson, the other spinners who were included earned their spots on expected lines. Ashton Agar, Nathan Lyon, and Stephen O’Keefe all will be on the flight to India.
Another big inclusion is that of Glenn Maxwell, who has been recalled to the Test side. While both the Marsh brothers, Shaun and Mitchell, find a place, all-rounder Mitchell Cartwright who made his debut in the series against Pakistan has been dropped. Matthew Wade remains the first choice wicketkeeper, but he has no back up, as Peter Nevill continues to remain out of favour. Chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns stated that four spinners have been chosen so as to give the squad the desired flexibility.
“We don’t know what pitch conditions we will come up against in each of the venues but wanted to have flexibility and options. We know India is an incredibly tough place to tour and have success in, with most international teams struggling to adapt to the conditions," Hohns was quoted as saying in an AP report. “But we have chosen a squad which we believe will work really hard in its endeavors to perform well and give a good account of itself in the subcontinent. We expect all of the young players chosen to benefit immensely from the experience," he went on to add.
On Swepson, Hohns described him as an exciting young player with considerable potential. “We want to see him take his opportunity in conditions that should suit him should he get a chance. He is an exciting young legspinner, gives the ball a very good rip. He’s a wicket-taking legspinner," the chairman of selectors explained. About Agar, he went on to add, “He is a good left-arm orthodox spinner who can be very exciting with the bat and also fields extremely well. He provides us with a great all-round package.”
As mentioned earlier, the series also marks the return of Maxwell to the Test squad. He last played a Test against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi in October, 2014. “I had a really good opportunity in Abu Dhabi to really nail down a spot and make that No. 6 position my own. I probably let a good opportunity slip,” Maxwell was quoted as saying by AP on his earlier failures. “I was hoping for a long time that it wasn’t going to be my last Test. I thought if I could play to the best of my ability, I thought I would get another opportunity," he added.
The India-Australia series begins with the first Test in Pune on February 23. This will be followed by the second in Bangalore on March 4, the third in Ranchi on March 16, and the fourth at Dharamsala on March 23.
Australia: Steve Smith (captain), David Warner, Ashton Agar, Jackson Bird, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Steve O’Keefe, Matthew Renshaw, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson and Matthew Wade
--By A Cricket Correspondent