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November 13, 2008
Andrew Symonds could make his return to Test cricket next week after being named in Australia's 13-man squad to take on New Zealand in the first Test in Brisbane. Symonds has been included alongside Jason Krejza, the offspinner who took 12 wickets on debut in Nagpur, and the Victoria fast bowler Peter Siddle.
But there was no place for Cameron White, the legspinning allrounder who played all four Tests in India. White was the preferred slow bowler for the first three Tests but he finished the series with only five wickets and Krejza's success has bumped him down the list.
White was the only man who played in the India Tests who has not retained his place for the Gabba match. However, the selectors still have a couple of tough calls to make with Shane Watson, the allrounder who replaced Symonds at No. 6, performing solidly in India.
Watson made 170 runs at 24.28 but his seam bowling was particularly useful and among the Australians only Krejza and Mitchell Johnson collected more than Watson's ten wickets at 32.10. Symonds has hardly been in convincing form at state level and in three Sheffield Shield outings for Queensland he has posted scores of 5, 5, 26, 0, 43 and 1.
But Andrew Hilditch, the chairman of selectors, said Symonds had done enough in the past to justify his place in the squad. "Over the previous 12 months, Andrew has cemented his place in the Test team with outstanding performances at home and in the West Indies," Hilditch said, "and he now deserves to come back into the Australian squad."
If Symonds does make the cut it will be his first Test appearance since the tour of the Caribbean this year. He was axed from the national squad in Darwin following his now infamous fishing trip but after completing a welfare process he made the first steps back to the international scene earlier this week when he was picked for Friday's Twenty20 match against an All-Stars line-up.
His chances of playing the Test might depend on the health of Michael Clarke, who has been selected subject to fitness. Clarke was struck down with a stomach virus in the fourth Test in Nagpur but there is still a week before the Test starts next Thursday and he is expected to be available.
The selectors will also have to make a call on the makeup of the attack with the fast men struggling for impact in India. Stuart Clark is likely to force his way back into the starting line-up and Siddle will probably miss out, while the exact balance of the bowling group could depend on whether either Watson or Symonds are squeezed out.
Despite the conventional wisdom that the Gabba does not favour spin bowlers, it would be difficult to leave out Krejza after his sensational debut. He could also be helped by the past performances of Shane Warne, who defied the theory that Brisbane was better for the seamers. The Gabba was Warne's favourite venue and he collected 68 wickets there at 20.31.
"Jason Krejza richly deserves to retain his place in the side after such an outstanding debut in Nagpur," Hilditch said. "It will now be a significant challenge for him to adapt back to Australian conditions and continue his development."
The squad will be trimmed to 12 next Tuesday and the player who is not needed will be free to return to his home state. Shaun Marsh and Doug Bollinger, who were part of the touring party in India but did not play a Test, were not required for the Brisbane game.
Squad Matthew Hayden, Simon Katich, Ricky Ponting (capt), Michael Hussey, Michael Clarke, Andrew Symonds, Shane Watson, Brad Haddin (wk), Jason Krejza, Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson, Stuart Clark, Peter Siddle.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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