Australia include Glenn Maxwell for Sydney Test
The allrounder Glenn Maxwell is in line for his Test debut after being named to replace the injured Shane Watson for the Sydney Test against Sri Lanka starting January 2. Watson has been ruled out due to the calf injury he suffered while bowling on the first day at the MCG and the captain Michael Clarke is also in some doubt due to the hamstring injury he sustained in Hobart. While Clarke expects he will be fit to play at the SCG, Usman Khawaja will remain on standby as Australia assess Clarke's recovery.
Maxwell is almost certain to play as the Australians look ahead to the tour of India, where they will require a second spinner, although Clarke also raised the possibility of bringing Mitchell Starc back in for Watson, to bowl alongside Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle and Jackson Bird. Whatever happens, Clarke has declared Starc a certain starter, but a four-man pace attack along with Lyon appears unnecessary in Sydney conditions.
"Shane is out of the Sydney Test and Glenn Maxwell comes into the squad as a replacement for Watto [Watson], being the allrounder," Clarke said after Australia's win in Melbourne. "The other person on standby is Usman Khawaja for me once again. I have got a bit of extra time now, winning this game in three days, to give myself every chance to be right for Sydney and I'm really confident I'll be fit for Sydney. But Usman is on standby just in case.
"Maxwell comes into the squad as the allrounder, so it is a squad of 13 and then we wait and see what the conditions are like in Sydney. I think the other allrounder sits beside me right here [Mitchell Johnson] as he showed with the bat in this game. So we've got options. If you think the wicket is going to spin you've got the option of Maxy [Maxwell], if you think there's enough in there to play four fast bowlers and a spinner, you've got [Johnson]."
The uncertainty over Clarke's fitness and the absence of the vice-captain, Watson, also means Australia's selectors will need to decide who would be captain in the event that Clarke is ruled out. The logical replacement for a one-off Test would be the veteran Michael Hussey, although David Warner would be another option after the selectors indicated his leadership potential last summer by briefly naming him vice-captain of the one-day side.
"I haven't had that conversation with the selectors, not to say they haven't thought about it, I'm sure they have," Clarke said when asked about the captaincy if he was to sit out. "But I haven't. I don't know the answer to that question."
"I don't think [my hamstring has] got worse, that's for sure. The thing with my injury, it's about how you pull up as well. Yesterday I batted for a fair bit of time and made a hundred. I really need to assess over the next 24-48 hours how I pull up, continue with my strength programme, continue with my maintenance work to make sure I'm 100% right for Sydney. I think it's more precaution than anything else."
The most likely scenario is that Clarke will play and Maxwell will come in for Watson, to bat at No.7, with Matthew Wade to move up to No.6. Clarke confirmed that if he was declared fit he himself would bat at No.4 in Sydney, with Hussey at No.5. The inclusion of Maxwell would give Australia two offspinners, but Clarke was confident both Maxwell and Nathan Lyon could work in the same side.
"They're two very different bowlers," Clarke said. "Glenn brings that allrounder package. He's scored plenty of runs for Victoria with the bat, I think he averages over 40 with the bat in first-class cricket, and he's had success with the ball. He's the full package and he has that X-factor about him. It's now about assessing conditions and making sure we pick the best XI."
Maxwell, 24, has played 15 first-class matches and collected 27 wickets at 33.81, and has scored 924 runs at an average of 42. He made his ODI and Twenty20 international debuts earlier this year and is viewed as a player of enormous potential by John Inverarity's selection panel.
The absence of Watson will also raise further questions about his ability to perform the dual roles of batting in the top four and bowling in Test cricket, after calf and hamstring injuries ruled him out of the whole of last summer and the first two Tests against South Africa this season. Clarke said there were times when he held Watson back from bowling too much due to his batting commitments, but he said any decision to give up bowling would have to be made by Watson alone.
"That's really decided by Watto," Clarke said. "He wants to be an allrounder. If you're an allrounder you've got to be able to bat and bowl. Unless that changes in his mind, it won't change in mine. We speak about it often. We're very lucky to have such a good player who can do both, he could be in the team as a bowler, he could be in the team as a batter."
Squad: Michael Clarke (capt), David Warner, Ed Cowan, Phillip Hughes, Michael Hussey, Usman Khawaja, Matthew Wade (wk), Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Jackson Bird
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here