Overseas tours without warm-up matches is becoming “the norm” according to selection chief George Bailey as a variety of IPL, county games and fitness tests loom as Australia’s Ashes preparation.
The World Test Championship final against India at The Oval will preceded the five-match Ashes series and the Australians will come together for that clash from playing and non-playing lead ins.
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While the likes of batting guns Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne will get a taste for conditions from their respective county stints, under pressure David Warner is coming from the IPL, while his opening partner Usman Khawaja will hit England after a break.
That will be the same scenario for captain Pat Cummins, who hasn’t played since leaving the Indian Test series early, and fellow quick Mitchell Starc, with Bailey hopeful Josh Hazlewood, who played just one Test during the home summer, will hopefully “get a few games” at the back end of the IPL as he recovers from an Achilles issue.
Both Ashes-bound all-rounders, bolter Mitch Marsh and Cameron Green, are also playing in the IPL.
Despite the disjointed lead ins for those in the 17-man squad, Bailey was confident the various players would be ready for what looms as a frenetic six and a half weeks of cricket, with potential changes available given a host of players who missed the squad, like Michael Neser, will be in England too.
“It feels like this is becoming the norm for Test tours, around tour games,” Bailey said after the squad was confirmed.
“It feels like there‘s more tours that you don’t have one (a tour match) than when you do, so our team’s reasonably well prepared in terms of knowing what you need outside of those (and) the opportunities that may have happened on past tours.
“We do it across every Australian summer – we name a squad for the first couple of Tests, and then revise just depending on how guys are going.
“I think we do carry bigger squads for challenging conditions or if you know you‘re going to be touring somewhere that’s out of the season at home.
“It‘s good to have as much back-up as you can so you know exactly what you need to bring in, and when you need to bring it in.
“It‘s great to have so many players playing county cricket. We keep an eye on all the guys that are over there playing.
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“Specifically, around the bowling front we‘ve got our first-choice four quicks and if we do need to call on another quick, we can be really specific on who we need and why, and not necessarily have someone in the squad who ends up being superfluous.”
Bailey said leaving players out was about letting them play too, knowing the condense five-match Ashes could mean reinforcements are required.
“You just don‘t know the workload they’re going to get, from innings to innings or what days you end up bowling in Test matches,” he said.
“There‘s two or three occasions when there’s very, very short turnarounds (between Tests) so we have to be aware of that.
“And knowing you‘ve got some depth there, and some confidence in the guys you can bring in means you’ve got the opportunity to make sure you’ve got cherry-ripe bowlers whenever you need to.”
WHERE THE TEST SQUAD ARE COMING FROM
Indian Premier League – David Warner, Mitch Marsh, Josh Hazlewood, Cameron Green
County Cricket – Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne, Marcus Harris
Not playing – Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Usman Khawaja, Matthew Renshaw, Alex Carey, Josh Inglis, Scott Boland, Nathan Lyon, Todd Murphy, Travis Head