MELBOURNE: Glenn Maxwell and Peter Handscomb have been deemed surplus to requirements in the first Australian Test squad since the Newlands ball-tampering scandal. They were left out, while the experienced Victorian pair of Aaron Finch and Peter Siddle were called into the team for the two-Test series against Pakistan, to fill the lack of experience left by the injured Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, and the banned Steven Smith and David Warner.
Another member of Australia’s previous Test team, Joe Burns, has also been discarded, with the South Australia captain Travis Head granted a long-form opportunity. The conscientious Bulls middle-order batsman Marnus Labuschagne made a late run for inclusion in the squad after being called up to Australia A as injury cover for Matt Renshaw, who has also been included.
The all-out pace of Brendan Doggett has seen him win a place alongside Michael Neser. Ashton Agar will serve as the backup spinner to Nathan Lyon and the Victorian Jon Holland. The new coach Justin Langer’s loyalty to Mitchell and Shaun Marsh has seen both included, the former a likely candidate for vice-captaincy when the Cricket Australia Board deliberates on the identity of Paine’s lieutenant in the coming days.
The exclusion of Maxwell, at a time when Australia’s Test-batting stocks have seldom been lower, is a grim sign for the 29-year-old’s future Test-match prospects. Trevor Hohns, the selection chairman, explained that the omissions of Burns, Maxwell, Handscomb and fast bowler Jhye Richardson were intended to exhort them to demand a place via domestic performances.
“Joe, Peter and Glenn were players we discussed when selecting the batting group, but we had to take into account the conditions and competition we are set to face in the upcoming series,” Hohns said.
“There has been a significant change to our Test squad, due to the unavailability of a number of key players. That said, we firmly believe the squad selected is up to the challenge ahead and is capable of playing a brand of cricket that can perform well in this series against Pakistan. There are five potential debutants in the squad, all of whom have earned selection through their performances and deserve this opportunity.”
“It’s a blend of experienced players who have a significant amount of either Test or first-class cricket, and a number of younger players who we are confident are ready for the Test arena. Looking at the conditions we may face in the UAE, we believe this squad covers all bases,” concluded Hohn.