Clarke, Warner, Wade return, Henriques called up
Michael Clarke, David Warner and Matthew Wade, the three key players rested for the first two ODIs against Sri Lanka, will return for the next two games in Brisbane and Sydney. The allrounder Moises Henriques, who last played for Australia in India in 2009, has also been included, while the selectors dropped Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, Steven Smith, Ben Cutting and Kane Richardson. Brad Haddin, who picked up a hamstring injury during the second ODI, was also left out.
The widespread changes were not surprising after the selectors named a squad devoid of stars for the opening two games, preferring to have Clarke, Warner and Wade rest following their Test duties, and with one eye on the upcoming Test tour of India. However, their return means Khawaja's one-day opportunity was limited to one innings ended by a run-out at the MCG, while a number of other players have had to make way having had limited time in the middle.
John Inverarity, the national selector, said it was always the intention of his panel to play Khawaja in the first game in Melbourne and Smith in the second match in Adelaide, and that both men had benefited from further time around the national squad. He said he had spoken to both Smith and Khawaja on Sunday night about their omissions and said the players had been pleased to have been given an opportunity in the first place.
"They saw that with those players coming back there was a good chance they were going to be squeezed out," Inverarity said. "They would prefer one game to no games. They received a very clear message. It's not only playing the game, but being in the Australian squad for four or five days and the intensity of training and being there with Mickey Arthur and the other support staff, it's a very good experience for them."
The one surprise in the squad for the third match in Brisbane on Friday and the fourth game in Sydney on Sunday was the inclusion of Henriques, who started the domestic summer in outstanding form. However, the decision does fit in with Inverarity's preference for players with all-round skills, and with the view that a seam-bowling allrounder would be required, especially at the Gabba.
"We certainly need allrounders," Inverarity said. "We're really trying to groom Glenn Maxwell as a spin-bowling allrounder and obvious interest there for India. Mitchell Marsh was in the frame some time ago but he's injured. Moises Henriques has been on the horizon for some years now, and this is his opportunity. We really hope that he will come on as a seam-bowling allrounder.
"I saw him bat at the WACA when he made 78 in the Ryobi Cup and then 78 in the Shield match and he batted superbly. Then he went to Sydney and made 150 and 50 not out in the next game. Also when I saw him bowl in Perth he bowled very well, too. So he's got a lot of talent. We hope that he performs and we want consistent performance from him."
Maxwell retained his place in the squad despite having done little with the bat or ball during the first two games, although his fielding had been excellent. Inverarity said the selectors rated Maxwell extremely highly and that he was viewed as a batsman who could provide some useful overs, not a frontline spinner, although his bowling had improved since he played for Australia A against the South Africans in early November.
"When he gets an opportunity he's showing signs of improving," Inverarity said. "He's not a frontline spinner, he's a batsman who bowls. As I've said many times we are looking for batsmen who can bowl decently. With Dilshan in the Sri Lankan side he's an opening batsman and bowls very decent offspinners. You need your four bowlers and you need some of your batsmen who can give you some decent overs. That's where we're trying to develop Glenn Maxwell."
The inclusion of allrounders is all the more important with the continued absence of Shane Watson. When he returns from his calf injury, Watson will be playing as a specialist batsman only and Inverarity said the selectors were hoping he would have a chance to play Sheffield Shield cricket towards the end of this month, but his availability for any of the limited-overs games this summer remained uncertain.
"We'll just wait and see when Shane is fit to play and then he will come under consideration," Inverarity said. "But we're certainly hoping he'll be fit by the end of this month. In the last three or four days I haven't heard how he's progressing. We'll have to see that. We're really hoping that he'll be ready for the Sheffield Shield match which I think starts on the 24th of January, and then we'll go from there. It will be terrific if he's available, but I don't know yet if he'll be likely or not."
There is also uncertainty over how long Haddin will have to sit out after suffering a hamstring injury during the loss to Sri Lanka in Adelaide on Sunday. Haddin top scored for Australia with 50 but during Sri Lanka's chase, handed the wicketkeeping gloves to Phillip Hughes and left the field. Australia might take two wicketkeepers on the Test tour of India next month and the selectors are hopeful Haddin will be back in action soon.
"We don't know exactly. I saw Brad last night and again at the airport this morning. We're hoping it's not too serious," Inverarity said. "We're hoping it's a couple of weeks and nothing more than that. There is a real chance we'll take two wicketkeepers to India and/or to England. As I've said before the two we consider the best wicketkeeper-batsmen in the country are he and Matthew Wade."
Cricket Australia also announced that the fielding coach Steve Rixon would stand in as head coach over the next few days and during the ODI in Brisbane on Friday to allow Mickey Arthur a break during the team's busy summer. Arthur will spend a few days with his family in Perth before returning to coaching duties for the fourth ODI in Sydney on Sunday.
Australia squad David Warner, Phillip Hughes, Michael Clarke (capt), George Bailey, David Hussey, Matthew Wade (wk), Glenn Maxwell, Moises Henriques, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Clint McKay, Xavier Doherty.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here