Gillespie, Bichel back in Australian Test squad
After long absences for each, Australia has today recalled pacemen Jason Gillespie and Andy Bichel to its Test squad. The return of the pair comes in the form of their respective inclusions in the thirteen-strong line-up named today in preparation for next week's First Test against West Indies in Brisbane.
For Gillespie, news of the recall is particularly heartening. It has been fourteen long months since a sickening on-field collision with captain Steve Waugh in a match in Kandy put paid to thoughts of anything other than a long stint on the sidelines. He did renew his association with international cricket in the three-match one-day international series with South Africa three months ago but has not appeared in Test ranks since that fateful day in September 1999. With Bichel's call-up, meanwhile, comes the chance for the veteran Queensland swing bowler to play in a Test for the first time in close to three years. The last of his three Tests was the third match of the 1997-98 home series against South Africa in Adelaide. Consistently fine form for his state team in the years since has, however, arguably ensured that he has never been far out of contention for a recall.
As expected, the Australians included two other players who were also missing from the team that represented them in their last Test appearance - against New Zealand in Hamilton in April. In the absence of Shane Warne (unavailable due to a serious finger injury), leg spinner Stuart MacGill rejoins the Test attack, while batsman Ricky Ponting also re-assumes a berth after an ankle injury had rendered him unavailable for the trip across the Tasman. Western Australia's Damien Martyn makes way for Ponting, while Warne and fellow Victorian Damien Fleming - who has also been badly injury-affected through the early part of the new Australian season - are the bowlers to have been replaced.
Australia will start the Test series, which begins on Thursday 23 November at the newly redeveloped 'Gabba ground, an overwhelming favourite. But both Waugh and the recent history of Test results between the two sides suggest that a win for the home team is far from the foregone conclusion that it might otherwise appear.
The full Test squad is: Steve Waugh (NSW, c), Adam Gilchrist (WA, vc), Andrew Bichel (Qld), Jason Gillespie (SA), Matthew Hayden (Qld), Justin Langer (WA), Brett Lee (NSW), Stuart MacGill (NSW), Glenn McGrath (NSW), Colin Miller (Vic), Ricky Ponting (Tas), Michael Slater (NSW), Mark Waugh (NSW).