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Cricket Australia names spin-heavy 16-man squad for India Test series

News Agencies | Updated on: 12 February 2017, 11:07 IST

Australia today named a spin-heavy 16-man squad with four specialist slow bowlers in it for their four-match Test tour of India in February-March.

Uncapped leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson was named in the team to boost the spin contingent while all-rounder Glenn Maxwell made a Test comeback after more than two years.

The squad, to be led by Steve Smith, includes six specialist batsmen, four spinners, three pace bowlers, two all-rounders and a wicket-keeper.

The Test series against top-ranked India begins on February 23 in Pune, followed by matches in Bangalore (March 4-8), Ranchi (March 16-20) and Dharamsala (March 25-29).

With the inclusion of only three fast-bowlers in the squad, the National Selection Panel will reassess the fast bowling stocks after the second Test in Bangalore, Cricket Australia said.

Australia have not won a Test match in India since 2004, and the four-Test series is expected to be a stern test for skipper Smith and his team.

Speaking on the make-up of the squad, interim national selector Trevor Hohns said the panel chose an additional spin bowler to allow as many options as possible.

"We don't know what pitch conditions we will come up against in each of the venues but wanted to have flexibility and options available to us," Hohns said.

"We know India is an incredibly tough place to tour and have success in, with most International teams struggling to adapt to the conditions, but we have chosen a squad which we believe will work really hard in its endeavours to perform well and give a good account of itself in the sub-continent," he said.

"We expect all of the young players chosen to benefit immensely from the experience."

Queenslander Swepson, 23, joins lead spinner Nathan Lyon and left-arm orthodox Ashton Agar and Steve O'Keefe. Swepson, whose cause has been championed by legendary Shane Warne, is the only member of the squad yet to play Test cricket.

"Mitchell (Swepson)is an exciting young leg-spinner that has come through the pathway system. We feel he has a lot of potential and want to see him take his opportunity in conditions that should suit him should he get a chance," said Hohns.

"Ashton is a good left-arm orthodox spinner who can be very exciting with the bat and also fields extremely well. He provides us with a great all-round package."

Victoria's Maxwell and West Australia's Mitchell Marsh made up the all-rounders in the side. Maxwell last played in a Test in October-November 2014.

"We know Glenn plays very well against spin and has a lot of experience playing in India. We think his ability with the bat, coupled with his handy off-spin will complement the bowling unit if required," Hohns said.

Mitchell Marsh returned to the squad after being axed early in the home summer, and will provide a valuable extra seam-bowling option in a squad featuring only three specialist fast men in Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Jackson Bird.

His stronger bowling won him a place ahead of batting all-rounder Hilton Cartwright, who had played in Australia's most recent Test in Sydney against Pakistan.

"We consider Mitchell (Marsh) as a bowling all-rounder and should we decide to play a two pace and two spin bowling attack it is important to have that third seam bowling option if conditions suit," Hohns said.

Shaun Marsh also returned after an injury earlier this summer as the sixth specialist batsman in the squad, alongside the five -- Smith, David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Matthew Renshaw and Peter Handscomb -- who played in the Sydney Test, while wicketkeeper Matthew Wade was retained despite struggling for impact with the bat in Tests since his recall this summer.

Handscomb, the No.5 batsman who filled in behind the stumps when Wade was ill in Sydney, will also serve as backup wicketkeeper.

"Shaun is proven in sub-continent conditions and is coming off a hundred in his last Test match in Sri Lanka. He is a very versatile batsman who can slot in at the top or the middle of the order," Hohns said.

Some of the squad will head to Dubai on January 29 for a training camp at the ICC's Academy there, while the rest will follow after the Chappell-Hadlee Series in New Zealand. A tour match in Mumbai will then help them acclimatise to the Indian conditions.

Australia Squad: Steve Smith (capt), David Warner, Ashton Agar, Jackson Bird, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Steve O'Keefe, Matthew Renshaw, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, Matthew Wade (wk).


First published: 15 January 2017, 10:39 IST