NB: Australia will name their squad for the tour of India at 11:45am EDT today
Australia are reportedly set to name a squad of up to 17 players for their four-Test tour of India, starting next month.
Coach Mickey Arthur has given a strong indication of the make-up of the squad, which could include up to three uncapped players.
"We've tried to cover every base that we can," Arthur said.
“We could play a spinning all-rounder, we could play a seam-up all-rounder, we will have the option of two spinners, we'll probably have as many as five quicks going over.
"We'll try and cover as many of the bases as we possibly can and then determine team that plays based on the conditions that we face."
Of the 17 reportedly set to be selected, 12 should offer no surprises.
The five-man pace attack that Arthur has hinted will be included is expected to comprise of Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc and Jackson Bird.
The identity of the No.1 wicketkeeper (Matthew Wade) and frontline spinner (Nathan Lyon) is no secret, while Ed Cowan, David Warner, Phillip Hughes, Shane Watson and Michael Clarke are five batsmen also seemingly assured of selection.
That leaves the identity of five players – likely to be two batsmen, two all-rounders and a second spinner - as the only mysteries ahead of Thursday’s squad announcement.
Of the batsmen, Usman Khawaja is clearly the next in line after shadowing the squad for much of the summer, while selectors have made no secret of their desire to include veteran Brad Haddin. Uncapped Tasmanians Alex Doolan and George Bailey have also made strong cases for selection, while Shaun Marsh seems to be back to his best form and Steve Smith (see below) is reportedly in line for a surprise recall. Victorian duo Rob Quiney and David Hussey appear to be off the pace despite tasting international cricket this summer.
With Shane Watson’s medium-pacers on the backburner, the search for a replacement all-rounder is on in earnest. Glenn Maxwell’s off-spin and dangerous batting makes him an almost certain selection, while the race for the seaming all-rounder’s role is expected to come down to Moises Henriques and James Faulkner. On paper, leg-spinning all-rounder Steve Smith appears to be the perfect candidate for a tour of India. But while the 23-year-old's batting has improved to be the point where he may be considered as a specialist batsman, his bowling has deteriorated. Smith has bowled just 15 overs in five Sheffield Shield matches this summer and at this stage seems to be an all-rounder in title only.
It has been Australia’s Achilles heel for over five years and the lack of depth in spin bowling will be tested to the full in India. And with a casualty ward that includes left-armers Jon Holland and Michael Beer, the spin stocks are looking decidedly thin. Another left-armer, limited-overs specialist Xavier Doherty, appears to be the favourite, while Steve O’Keefe rocketed into calculations with an eight-wicket performance against Western Australia last week. O’Keefe’s ability with the bat – he averages 31.80 in first-class cricket – could work in his favour given selectors will be tempted to sacrifice a batsman to play five frontline bowlers.
AUSTRALIA’S TEST SQUAD (possible)
Michael Clarke (c), Shane Watson (vc), Jackson Bird, Ed Cowan, Xavier Doherty, Brad Haddin, Moises Henriques, Phillip Hughes, Mitchell Johnson, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.