Manchester, England (BBN)-If selectors do not pick Peter Siddle to share pace duties in Bangladesh early next month they will be consigning Australia to fielding their most inexperienced Test line-up since the World Series Cricket split.
Ignored until the last match of the Ashes series and seemingly out of consideration, the 30-year-old has become a more attractive proposition for the series in Bangladesh, reports The Sydney Morning Herald.
That is through a combination of being sufficiently resilient to cope with being just one of two specialist seamers, and because with the retirement of Michael Clarke and the resting of Mitch Johnson he would comfortably be the most-capped player in the team.
Australia will have to cope with at least the absence of three players with more than 200 Tests between them: Clarke, Johnson and Chris Rogers.
If you add David Warner to that, based on the opener’s expectation he will miss the entire series due to a fractured thumb, players with a total of 254 Tests between them will be missing.
Even if selectors turn to previously tried batsmen, such as Shaun Marsh and Usman Khawaja, to fill the batting vacancies they will be struggling to field an XI that has played a combined total of 200 matches, a tally they have exceeded in every Test since December 1987.
If they overlooked Siddle, who has played 57 Tests and is only two wickets from reaching his 200-wicket milestone, the tally will drop below 150, with off-spinner Nathan Lyon (46 Tests) and new captain Steve Smith (33) the most experienced of a conspicuously inexperienced bunch.
The combined total of players’ experience has not been so low since the late 1970s, when many star players instead played in the breakaway competition run by the late Kerry Packer.
There will be at least three- and almost certainly four- necessary changes between the final Ashes Test at the Oval to the first in Chittagong, with Clarke, Rogers, Johnson and probably Warner out.
In the past 30 years the most changes made by Australia in consecutive Tests was six, between Bangalore against India in March 1998 and Rawalpindi in Pakistan in October 1998. Current Australia coach Darren Lehmann was one of the minority of players (five) from Bangalore to have played in the next Test, too.
Khawaja has been nominated by former Australia captain Ricky Ponting as the batsman most deserving of promotion to the Test team outside the Ashes squad.
He recently captained Australia A in a series in India.
Marsh failed twice in his only Test appearance of the Ashes, and while the combination of his mediocre record (he averaged 33.12 after 15 Tests) and his age (32) have led to calls for him to be permanently discarded, selectors could be swayed by his good record on comparable pitches to what are expected in Bangladesh.
The left-hander has played a lot in India, mainly in IPL, and in his debut Test series in Sri Lanka four years ago he thrived with scores of 141, 81 and 18.
Before the Ashes he made 69 in his last innings of the West Indies series.
The reputed lead contender to succeed Rogers as Test opener, Joe Burns, insisted he was not being distracted by the issue of the looming selection of the squad for Bangladesh, and was instead focusing on the one-dayers in England.
“I guess there is a lot of opportunity there, but when you’re playing series like this it’s not something you’re really thinking about. All you’re doing is focusing on your next training session, your next game … you want to play well for your country and, hopefully, win a series for Australia,” Burns told ESPNcricinfo.
“It’s not something that keeps any player up at night, worrying about future selections or anything like that.”
Australia Twenty20 captain Aaron Finch said the looming turnover of batsman was a fillip for batsmen desperate to play Test cricket.
“I think it’s an exciting time for Australian cricket with a few of the senior players moving aside. It gives everyone confidence that if they’re playing well and in form, no matter what format of the game or where you’re playing, you’ll most likely be selected … I think that gives everyone around the country a real buzz that they know they’re not far away,” said Finch, who rejoined the one-day squad as Warner flew home.
“They know they might be a couple of a good scores from potentially playing Test cricket … that drives everyone, makes everyone strive to be better and be in as good a form as they can.”