Australia in selection bombshell amid stunning 35-year first for India Test

Australia has sprung a massive selection shock for the first cricket Test against India.

Australia Test debutant Todd Murphy was presented his baggy green cap before the first Test against India in Nagpur. Pic: Twitter
Australia Test debutant Todd Murphy was presented his baggy green cap before the first Test against India in Nagpur. Pic: Twitter

Australia has marked a stunning 35-year Test cricket first after handing young off-spinner Todd Murphy his debut for the first Test against India in Nagpur. With fast bowlers Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc ruled out of the Aussie XI due to injury, and allrounder Cameron Green also failing to overcome a finger injury in time, Cummins' side has picked a second specialist right-arm off-spinner for the first time since 1988.

The 22-year-old Murphy toured Sri Lanka with Australia A last year and picked up a handy 4-52 in Hambantota. However, Murphy has only played five first-class games for Victoria, completing a meteoric rise for the young tweaker. The late, great Shane Warne played two games more for Victoria before making his Test debut for Australia.

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In another selection bombshell on Thursday, Aussie middle order batter Travis Head was left out of the starting XI, with Peter Hanscomb and Matt Renshaw both preferred by Aussie selectors. Murphy won a three-way battle with incumbent left-arm spinner Ashton Agar and Mitchell Swepson to partner Nathan Lyon as Australia's other specialist spinner.

Fittingly, it was Lyon who presented Murphy with his baggy green cap before play got underway in Nagpur. The Australian's Peter Lalor reported that the young spinner's family flew out from Australia to witness his milestone moment.

Much of the talk in the lead-up to the opening match have centred around the pitch, and the treatment of the surface from local curators. Drama around the pitch erupted after CricBuzz reporter Bharat Sundaresan pointed out that curators were selectively watering the middle of the pitch, but leaving the end near the left-hander's leg stump dry. A number of officials in Indian uniforms - including head coach Rahul Dravid and captain Rohit Sharma - watched on as staff selectively watered and mowed specific areas of the pitch.

India - which features no left-handed batters in its top order - appears to be trying to capitalise on Australia's left-hander heavy batting line-up, paving the way for right-hander Handscomb's recall. This has sparked claims of "cheating" from Aussie cricket fans which have been blasted by Indian legend Ravi Shastri.

To add even more intrigue to the situation, David Warner has been spotted batting right-handed during Australia's net sessions in the lead-up to the series opener. Videos posted to social media show the opener seamlessly switching it up from his normal left-handed stance, while facing spin bowling in the nets.

Warner has experience batting right-handed, having reportedly done so for an entire season in junior cricket. He is also a fine proponent of the reverse sweep. Whether or not the 36-year-old is bold enough to square up to India's impressive spin attack in his less dominant stance remains to be seen, but the cricket world has been left intrigued by the curious situation.

Australia looking to end long drought in India

Australia will begin their bid to become Test cricket's undisputed No.1 team in the same city they last secured the Border-Gavaskar trophy in India all the way back in 2004. Cummins' team will attempt to make history and end India's 11-year unbeaten Test series streak at home.

Murphy rocketed into favouritism to partner star veteran Nathan Lyon on a turning Nagpur pitch. Scott Boland willpartner Cummins as Australia's only other quick in what is the popular Victorian's first Test outside of Australia.

Seen here, Aussie off-spinner Todd Murphy bowls during a training session at Vidarbha Cricket Association Ground in Nagpur.
Aussie off-spinner Todd Murphy bowls during a training session at Vidarbha Cricket Association Ground in Nagpur, India. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Adam Gilchrist was the last Aussie skipper to lead his side to a series win in India, with the visitors famously wrapping up the series in Nagpur 19 years ago. The Aussie Test great says winning in India was near the pinnacle of Australia's all-conquering golden generation of cricket during the mid-1990s to 2007.

"I think it was one, if not the highlights of that playing group's journey to secure victory in the country that had been sort of tormenting Australian cricket for 34 years," the Fox Cricket talent and commentator told AAP. "Surprisingly, we had a wicket (in Nagpur) that sort of worked a little bit more towards our favour; I think there was some grass on it and had some decent pace and carry."

with AAP

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