Selector forecasts 'specialist' squads
Greg Chappell, the Australian selector, has forecast the selection of distinct "specialist" squads for tours of Sri Lanka and South Africa. The size of the task confronting Australia and its new captain Michael Clarke is placed into context by the fact that this is the first time since 1969-70 that the national side has been asked to make back-to-back overseas Test tours without a significant break or home summer in between.
To alleviate the difficulties, Chappell expected a substantial variation in the squads picked for the two series, to help Clarke best adapt his resources to contrasting conditions. As in 1969-70, when the team led by Bill Lawry travelled through India and enjoyed a series victory before venturing to South Africa and being crushed 4-0 in as many Tests, the Australians must make the sharp adjustments from slow subcontinental pitches to fast African tracks. That tour sowed the seeds for Lawry's eventual sacking as captain, a fate Clarke will be keen to avoid.
"If you want to look at it in that light it is [daunting], yes, but if you want to look at it as an opportunity for us to get better, I think it's a great opportunity," Chappell told ESPNcricinfo. "There'll be different challenges on each tour; much like 1969-70 there will be very different conditions on the two parts of the tour so it will be a challenge."
The success of the last Australian tour to South Africa in 2009 may result in a recall for a role-player like the Victorian allrounder Andrew McDonald, who bowled thriftily in partnership with the pace attack during those matches, while in Sri Lanka the spin of Michael Beer, Steve Smith and perhaps Jason Krejza will be employed.
"The good news for this generation is they won't have to go back-to-back from one set of conditions to the other; the Champions League will intervene, so the opportunity will be there to pick specialist groups for the two tours," said Chappell. "Sri Lanka's likely to suit spin bowling, South Africa's likely to suit fast bowling, so the balance of the two groups is likely to be different. It's an opportunity for experienced players and for budding players to gain some great experience and some great learning about what international cricket is about."
Chappell admitted there were few great players immediately available to the Australian team, and suggested the national selectors would have to make the best of it until a new generation, spearheaded by the likes of the teenaged fast bowler Pat Cummins, was ready for national duty.
"If you can find some outstanding matchwinning players, that's great, but if you haven't got them available you do the best you can with the combinations you can put together and that's the challenge for us over the next few years," said Chappell. "We can see we've got some potential champions on the horizon, but it's going to take time for them to get to the point where they're going to be ready to play for Australia, so in the meantime you're looking for the best combinations you can get."
Casting his eye across to India and the coaching role he once held, Chappell said Gary Kirsten's replacement, the former England coach Duncan Fletcher, was as prepared as anyone could be for the role.
"I think it's an interesting appointment; he's a very experienced coach, I think he'll bring a lot to the job," said Chappell. "Coaching at that level is a challenge in any environment, we know how fanatical India is about the game of cricket with the population and the media population, that brings with it different challenges. Duncan's been a proven coach and has experienced India from the other side, so if anyone can be ready for it he'll be as ready as anyone."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo