Sun, 16 Jun 2019

There was another Australia squad with plenty to digest as the selectors brought in a new-look top order to try and overcome the batting woes for the Sri Lanka series. Shaun and Mitchell Marsh, Peter Handscomb and Aaron Finch have been dropped - their Ashes hope now hanging by a thread - with Joe Burns, Matt Renshaw and the uncapped Will Pucovski taking their place. National selector Trevor Hohns addressed the media to cover various issues, both in terms of the immediate selection and the bigger picture, and here's how he reacted to the major talking points.

The debate: Shaun Marsh has been dropped after making 183 runs in the series against India with one-half-century. He has been axed and brought back on many occasions during his career, but at 35 years old it feels like this could be it for a Test career that has occasionally promised so much.

Hohns: "Shaun hasn't done what we'd like him to have done over the last period and I am sure he would say the same thing. As far as the Ashes go that's a long way off, he now has the opportunity in one-day cricket to get some form back. But the door is certainly not closed

The debate: Burns and Renshaw were much-discussed since they were parachuted in following the ball-tampering scandal at Newlands. Renshaw looked set to play against Pakistan in the UAE before suffering concussion and has been on the sidelines since. He has endured a lean Shield season to date (199 runs at 19.90) while Burns has been solid, averaging 47.20, with a strong school of thought his three Test centuries should have seen him in long before now

Hohns: "Joe Burns has a good record in Test cricket and has been in good form leading up to when the Big Bash started. Matt Renshaw on the other hand is very, very highly regarded young player, he's scored a lot of runs in England when he went over there and played county cricket. With the Ashes in mind it's probably time now to get him back and around the group."

The debate: Despite Australia's batting being at an historical low, missing David Warner and Steven Smith, there has been a sense that the selectors have ignored strong Sheffield Shield numbers by some players - favouring potential over performance. Matthew Wade is the Shield's top scorer with 571 runs at 63.44.

Hohns: "With Matthew Wade it's fantastic to see him scoring a lot of runs. It wasn't long ago that he was in our Test squad, he struggled and we dropped him. He was wicketkeeper at that stage, he's playing as a wicketkeeper-batsman for Tasmania and it just so happens we have a wicketkeeper-batsman in our Test side who is the captain. If Matthew wants to be considered as a straight out batsman it would be nice to see him batting a little higher up for Tasmania and that conversation has been had."

The debate: A continued omission from the Test side is Glenn Maxwell who last year was told not to take up a county deal, which we wanted to play more red-ball cricket, because he would be on the A tour to India with a chance to secure a place in the Tests against Pakistan. He has played two first-class games since then because of white-ball commitments.

Hohns: "We've had several conversations with Glenn about all this and right now he is just content to focus on one-day cricket and white-ball cricket. However, he makes it very clear he would like to play Test cricket, there is no doubt about that. Glenn has chosen to go and play country cricket again this year and a lot of that is one-day cricket leading up to the World Cup. He has also chosen not to put his name in for the IPL so that's all credit to him for doing that."

The debate: Australia have long been vexed over how to balance their Test side. Mitchell Marsh's return against India was brief, dumped after a poor batting performance in Melbourne. There was a bit of talk about Marcus Stoinis (largely from Shane Warne) but in the current squad any extra overs from the top order will be mostly in the hands of Marnus Labuschagne's legspin.

Hohns: "There's always talk about having an allrounder in your side. My only answer to that is if the allrounder isn't performing and you don't have a good allrounder, well maybe we shouldn't have one and go back to the stock standard six batsmen, four bowlers. But if you have a match-winning allrounder, they're like gold. If we can unearth one, that'd be fantastic."

The debate: Going into the India series it was at least considered that Australia had a world-class bowling attack. They still do, but it now has a few questions hanging over it after being ground down by Cheteshwar Pujara. It has remained intact for Sri Lanka, as was to be expected, with Peter Siddle retained as the back-up.

Hohns: "They are definitely our best three fast bowlers, I don't think anyone would argue that. Whether they are operating as the best unit, I'm sure there's some improvement that can be had there. There are fringe bowlers there's no doubt about that and three of those are in the CA XI squad. We also have Jhye Richardson who is seen as a very bright prospect. But we think it's essential that we have Pete around. He's such an experienced campaigner and he's great around the group."

The debate: So, inevitably, there is an eye on the Ashes. It may be that there are three batting spots up for grabs in the final squad while it seems as though there will be some jostling for the support bowling. But will things be any clearer after the two matches against Sri Lanka?

Hohns: "Of course a lot will depend on the availability of Smith, Warner and Bancroft for that matter as well. Our players right now and through the Indian series had a great opportunity - we saw it like that and we hoped that they would see it like that - to make it difficult for us if and when these players come back and are available. There are still positions available of course, particularly given the revamp of the squad for now. So these guys now have the opportunity to cement a place or at least make it difficult for us to leave them out going forward."

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