Australia’s selectors reversed course and chose Travis Head in Delhi due to his bowling prowess after leaving him out in Nagpur. As Australia chooses three specialist spinners and one fast bowler for the first time since 2017, Cameron Green and Mitchell Starc have both been ruled out due to injury, while Matthew Kuhnemann has surpassed Ashton Agar to make his Test debut.
Tony Dodemaide, an Australian selector on tour, gave a press conference just before Delhi’s coin toss to explain the selectors’ selection process. Dodemaide revealed that Head had been included in Delhi at the expense of Matt Renshaw because Australia believed they were missing a fifth bowling option in Nagpur after leaving Head out in Nagpur owing to his poor batting record on the subcontinent and his troubles during the training camp in Bengaluru.
Renners is pretty rigid, said Dodemaide. “It’s not a slight against him. He is a really important member of our team as we move forward. Particularly during the opening innings [in Nagpur], he was extremely stiff. He is still playing in those shows.
“That’s where we felt we were pushed in some areas of the game in Nagpur, and that fifth bowling option, even though it’s another spinner, is something we cherish. The main difference this time around is that Heady does give quite an important option as a fifth bowler. But in any scenario, we anticipate spin to rule.”
The circumstances surrounding Kuhnemann’s Test debut are exceptional, with Ashton Agar struggling with his form. He had been waiting his turn as the second Queensland spinner in their Sheffield Shield lineup, behind Mitchell Swepson, before playing his first first-class match for Queensland since October at the MCG in Melbourne.
Despite not being chosen for the initial India tour roster, Kuhnemann arrived in Delhi on Sunday as Swepson left for his own country to give birth to his first kid. Being the chosen left-arm orthodox spinner in the touring group, Agar was selected as Australia’s second spinner in the Eleven in Sydney for the final domestic Test before the India tour.
However, Agar’s performance against South Africa in Sydney and at the Bengaluru training camp meant that he was not a strong candidate to be selected for the first or second Test.
Dodemaide remarked, “His red-ball game is not quite where he wants it to be. “The visitor, Matt Kuhnemann, is impressive. He was given a shot in Sri Lanka, albeit in limited-overs form, and he has performed admirably this season in domestic cricket. He has also pleased us in the practise nets. We simply believe that his current approach is better suited to these circumstances.”
When Adam Zampa was out on paternity leave during the tour, Kuhnemann made a similarly unexpected ODI debut in Sri Lanka the previous year.
For the first time since Chittagong in 2017, when Pat Cummins was the lone quick with Ashton Agar, Nathan Lyon, and Steve O’Keefe, albeit on that occasion that did have Hilton Cartwright’s medium speed, Australia has decided not to choose a second fast bowler.
Despite just bowling 17 overs for the Test, Boland was perhaps Australia’s second-best bowler in Nagpur behind Todd Murphy. The Australian selection committee thinks a rapid second is unnecessary given the circumstances in Delhi.
Dodemaide commented, “Doing the three spin and one rapid is a little odd. “Since this pitch has already been used three times this year, there is already significant cracking in the areas where the majority of the game will be played. We believe that spin will once again rule the game due to the conditions present. The decision to use three spinners was made for this reason. The fifth bowler is also crucial.
“The possibility of Cam bowling seams is not currently on the table. We have every reason to believe that he is making improvement and anticipate that he will be available for the third Test in Indore. The selection process for this one was in that context.”
Dodemaide defended the choice of the selectors to bring three players on tour who are not fit enough to be selected for the first two Tests, including Cameron Green and Mitchell Starc optimistic for Indore. Josh Hazlewood is still dealing with an Achilles problem, and even though Green and Starc completely trained on Wednesday, none of them was quite ready for the second Test due to their individual finger problems.
Dodemaide remarked, “We brought them over with the hope that they’d be available. “Greeny and Starcy weren’t quite ready for this one. They should be online for the third one, without a doubt.
“We would have had a significant discussion about the bowling structure—two quicks and two spinners as opposed to one quick and three spinners—if [Starc] had been 100%. With Greeny available, having that seam bowling without shortening the batting is undoubtedly a fantastic balance. It is untrue, and we cope with what you have.
“Cam has been dealing with the return to play issues. He hasn’t actually accomplished everything he set out to do. He has yet to encounter rapid bowlers. He hasn’t done much catching, either. He has had extensive training. It’s simply not ready because there is exactly the right amount of reactivity and discomfort there.”
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