Using three frontline quicks remains an option for Australia on their tour of India with Pat Cummins keeping an opening mind about the balance of the side that they will need.
The last time they won in India, on the 2004 tour, their bowling attack was based around the three-pronged pace of Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Michael Kasprowicz alongside the spin of Shane Warne and then some part-time overs.
Australia have the resources to go with a similar shape of team this time although the emergence of Cameron Green has given them greater flexibility. However, Green is expected to miss the first Test in Nagpur due to his broken finger so the selectors will need to decide whether to stick with the two-quick, two-spinner method employed against South Africa or back what is traditionally Australia’s strength in pace bowlers.
Mitchell Starc is also unlikely to be fit for the first Test – and things may yet be tight for the second in Delhi – due to his broken finger suffered at the MCG, but Josh Hazlewood‘s impressive return from injury in Sydney, where he was threatening with reverse swing, means he could get more opportunity than presented itself on last year’s trips to Pakistan and Sri Lanka where he only played once.
Scott Boland was left out of the final Test against South Africa and has yet to play a game overseas, but it could be an option to field him, Cummins and Hazlewood together unless the pitch is so persuasive of including another spinner.
“Potentially,” Cummins said when asked about playing the extra quick. “[When] Cam Green bats at six you’ve kind of got three quick bowlers which is a bit of luxury as it is. [Josh] showed his class out there. No qualms picking him, you know what you are going to get and it’s quality. Each game in India we might need to chop it up slightly differently, maybe one game it’s three quicks and another it’s one quick. We’ll get over there and see.”
Australia’s second spinner at the SCG was Ashton Agar who went wicketless through 22 overs in his first home Test, nearly 10 years after making his debut. Agar is assured of his place on the India tour, and Australia are keen on having a left-arm spinner in their attack, but Mitchell Swepson and Todd Murphy are also in the mix for the tour.
However, there is an option where Australia rely on a combination of their part-time spinners to supplement Nathan Lyon, with Travis Head‘s development of his offspin making him a viable option. Head has taken seven wickets at 13.99 in his last seven Tests having not struck before then.
“It’s a real option,” Cummins said. “Think the squad will have all possibilities there. Really comfortable [with the part-time spinners] especially Trav, he’s a slightly different offspin bowler to Nathan, a bit flatter, which could be really helpful over there. Probably underbowled him in this game so he’ll be a big part over there.”
Away from the bowling, the batting options for the tour are likely to include Peter Handscomb, who was drafted into the SCG squad when Marcus Harris was released to play BBL. He is the leading Sheffield Shield run-scorer this season with 571 runs at 81.57 and coach Andrew McDonald said he was unlucky not to originally be selected for Sydney when Matt Renshaw was preferred.
“He’s a huge chance over in India, he’s played really well in Bangladesh, India he’s been there before,” Cummins said. “He’s earned the right by scoring a lot of runs in Shield cricket. I’m sure come selection time he’ll be there or thereabouts. Always nice having a right-hander as well, we’ve got plenty of left-handers.”
The squad is expected to be named later this week and will depart at the end of the month. There are plans for a short training camp in Sydney with the tour itself not including a warm-up match before the opening Test in Nagpur from February 9.