Selectors to consider enlarged Test squad

Rob Forsaith
·2-min read

National selectors are expected to look towards the future on Thursday when they name a 17-man Test squad for Australia's much-anticipated series against India.

Will Pucovski and Cameron Green, aged 22 and 21 respectively, are set to be named after dominant performances in the Sheffield Shield hub.

But the young duo, who have both been likened to Ricky Ponting at various stages, may not be the only potential Test debutants selected in the enlarged squad.

Legspinner Mitchell Swepson and pacemen Sean Abbott and Michael Neser are all highly regarded by the selection panel and their eye-catching form in the early Shield rounds is likely to be rewarded.

Incumbent Test opener Joe Burns has done little to instil confidence in chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns and national coach Justin Langer, starting the Shield season with scores of 7, 29, 0, 10 and 11.

That slump, coupled with Pucovski becoming the eighth player to record consecutive Shield double-centuries, may yet cost Burns a spot in the XI for the first Test at Adelaide Oval that begins on December 17.

Abbott has claimed 14 wickets at 18 on docile pitches during this Shield season, while the timing of Tuesday's maiden first-class ton could hardly be better for the 28-year-old.

"He's digging deeper than I have ever seen," said Test spinner and NSW teammate Nathan Lyon.

"He has got all the talent in the world.

"He is getting to exceptional standards in all three areas.

"His bowling is exceptional, he's one of the best fielders in the country and his batting has improved out of sight."

Neser and Jackson Bird are the other obvious contenders to be picked as cover for star quicks Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and James Pattinson.

Wednesday's selection meeting was as much about logistical planning as personnel.

Hohns's panel would ordinarily opt for a far smaller squad but their hand was forced by the fact that injury replacements and/or COVID-19 substitutes can't easily be quickly added to a biosecurity bubble.

A final call on how much freedom of movement will be allowed between the Test squad and BBL clubs is yet to be made.

Selectors also discussed squad and management plans revolving around two tour games in Sydney.

The panel is desperate for Australia's Indian Premier League players to be mentally refreshed and physically ready for the first Test, but it will be hard to tick both boxes.

Australia A's first game, scheduled for December 6-8 at Drummoyne Oval, is likely to involve Test players.

However, Australia's Test squad is expected to be training in Adelaide when the second tour game, set down for December 11-13 at the SCG, is on.