Australia have named a 14-man squad for the first two Tests against India, with Marcus Harris and Chris Tremain the new faces in the mix and a returning Peter Handscomb.
Harris, the 26-year-old opening batsman from Victoria, and his statemate, fast bowler Tremain, made the squad for the Tests in Adelaide (from 6 December) and Perth (from 14 December).
The rest of the squad is along expected lines, with Usman Khawaja included after recovering from an injury. Khawaja, who put in an appearance during the first Twenty20 International, hurt his knee during the Test series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates.
“We’ve been really impressed with the way Usman Khawaja has applied himself through his rehabilitation and he’s left no stone unturned in his bid to return in Adelaide. Barring any setbacks, all the signs are indicating he will be available for the first Test. We saw how well he performed against Pakistan in the UAE, and we hope he can recapture that form over the summer,” said Trevor Hohns, the National Selector.
On the new faces, Hohns was effusive with his praise.
“Marcus Harris has forced his way into the squad after an impressive start to the Sheffield Shield campaign for Victoria, and in recent times has performed in high pressure matches, including Sheffield Shield finals. Not only has he made plenty of runs, he’s displayed the mental application we believe is required to compete at Test cricket,” said Hohns.
“Chris Tremain has also been performing consistently with the ball for Victoria. His form in the Sheffield Shield has seen him become the second highest wicket-taker in the competition this season. He has also been a consistent wicket taker over the past two seasons, and thoroughly deserves his place in the squad.”
With Harris coming in, Australia have quite a few options to start their batting order with. Khawaja is there, of course, while Aaron Finch, who made a good start to his Test career in the UAE, is around too. Shaun Marsh is in the squad as well, though he is likely to be persisted with as a middle-order batsman.
Also returning in the continued absence of David Warner, Cameron Bancroft and Steve Smith is Peter Handscomb, who hasn’t played for Australia since the Test series in South Africa earlier this year.
“He’s been one of Victoria’s most consistent performers with the bat through the JLT Cup and Sheffield Shield,” Hohns said of Handscomb. “He’s a well-respected member of the dressing room, a calm head at the crease and has also played against India at Test level.”
Tremain, meanwhile, becomes part of a strong five-man pace attack, fronted by Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, with Mitchell Marsh as the pace-bowling all-rounder, while Nathan Lyon is the only frontline spinner in the squad, to be led by Tim Paine.
There was, however, no place for some of the members of the party that travelled to the UAE – Ashton Agar, Brendan Doggett, Jon Holland, Marnus Labuschagne, Michael Neser and Matt Renshaw.
Tim Paine (c & wk), Pat Cummins, Aaron Finch, Peter Handscomb, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Chris Tremain