Sydney : Australia’s national cricket selectors on Wednesday selected a four-man spin arsenal for the upcoming four-Test tour of India with rookie spinner Todd Murphy making the grade on the back of some superb performances at the domestic level and for Australia A.
Murphy joins experienced campaigner Ashton Agar and Mitchell Swepson as potential spin partners for Nathan Lyon on a tour on which their bowling resources are expected to be stretched to the full.
Agar has recently made it back to the Test squad and played the third and final Test against South Africa and continues to be preferred as the national selectors confirmed an 18-player squad for the four-Test Border-Gavaskar series.
Swepson had played four of Australia’s five Tests on the subcontinent last year for a return of 10 wickets at 45 and was favoured over white-ball leg-spinner Adam Zampa. The Australian men’s team will play Test matches in Nagpur, New Delhi, Dharamshala and Ahmedabad in February/March.
A squad for three one-day internationals will be announced at a later date. Besides boosting their spin attack, the Australian selectors also bolstered their batting for playing against spin by including Peter Handscomb in the side.
“Peter Handscomb, Todd Murphy and Mitchell Swepson have been added from the last Test match in Sydney while Cameron Green and Mitchell Starc have been named in expectation of successful respective returns from injury.
Marcus Harris missed selection,” Cricket Australia informed in a release on Wednesday. Chairman of Selectors George Bailey said: “After a successful home summer the squad is excited by the challenge a Test tour to the subcontinent provides.
We have selected a squad that provides the depth and flexibility required to adapt depending on the conditions we may encounter.” Bailey said the combination of left and right-hand batters, four specialist spinners and six fast bowlers, including allrounder Cameron Green, offers options in varying settings.
“Peter Handscomb deserves his place back in the squad,” Bailey said. “His domestic form has been strong recently and Pete has proven he can perform at the Test level. His experience against spin on the subcontinent is valuable and he is also an exceptionally good close to the wicket catcher,” Bailey was quoted as saying by Cricket Australia in the release.
The pace attack will be led by skipper Pat Cummins and will include Mitchell Starc, who will join the squad following the first Test in Nagpur, Scott Boland, and Lance Morris with pace-bowling all-rounder Cameron Green as a backup.
Starc had also missed the third Test against South Africa after suffering a finger tendon injury. Bailey defended their selection of spinners in the squad and said they provide variety and gives an opportunity to Murphy to learn by teaming up with Lyon.
Murphy, who had played just one first-class match before 2022, is viewed as a potential long-term successor to Lyon. “Ashton Agar continues to impress following his comeback in Sydney and we believe left-arm finger spin will play an important role in Indian conditions.
“Mitchell Swepson has recent Test experience in the sub-continent and offers leg-spinning variety,” he said. “Todd Murphy has progressed quickly having impressed in domestic cricket and recently with Australia A.
With those performances Todd has emerged as a strong spin option. “Selection in this squad also provides another opportunity to spend time alongside Nathan Lyon and assistant coach Daniel Vettori in India which will be invaluable to his development,” Bailey added.
He also said that the selectors will review the squad’s performance after the second Test. “The tour coincides with the resumption of the Marsh Sheffield Shield competition in Australia and the long break between the second and third Tests may provide an opportunity to review the squad and make any further adjustments necessary,” Bailey explained.
Australia will leave for India in early February. The first Test will be played at Nagpur from February 9-13, and the second at New Delhi from Feb 17-21. The Test will be played at Dharamshala from March 1-5 while the fourth will be held at Ahmedabad from March 9-13.
The three-match ODI series will start on March 17 at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.
Australia: squad for India Tests:
Pat Cummins (captain), Steve Smith (vice-captain), Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Lance Morris, Todd Murphy, Matthew Renshaw, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner.