Clint McKay shocked at Test call-up
Clint McKay knows he will almost certainly be Australia's 12th man in the second Test but he can look to several of his fast-bowling colleagues for inspiration about a possible future debut. McKay flew to Adelaide on Tuesday to join the squad ahead of Friday's Adelaide Test against West Indies after Ben Hilfenhaus was ruled out with knee soreness.
Doug Bollinger is expected to move into the team after being 12th man at the Gabba, which will leave McKay to soak up the atmosphere of a Test from the players' rooms for the first time. It is an experience that McKay will relish and he knows that Bollinger, Hilfenhaus and Mitchell Johnson all had lengthy stints as the next cab off the rank before breaking into the side.
It is a strong vote of confidence in McKay, 26, that the selectors preferred him over the veteran Stuart Clark, who played two Ashes Tests this year. McKay said he was surprised at his elevation into the Test squad, given the competition from fast bowlers around the country.
"I didn't think there was any chance at all, to be honest," McKay said in Melbourne before flying out to join the squad. "There's a lot of players around at the moment playing very good cricket and not knowing that there were any injury concerns or anything like that, it came as a great shock.
"It's going to be a great experience, just being involved with these sort of guys like Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke and the rest of the Australian side. It'll be a great thrill and a great learning opportunity for me to be a part of and hopefully I can learn and someday I actually do make my debut for Australia."
The coach Tim Nielsen confirmed that McKay was unlikely to play given Bollinger's status as the next in line, but McKay should be prepared for any eventuality. This time last year, also for the Adelaide Test, Jason Krejza hurt his ankle at training two days before the Test and Nathan Hauritz rocketed into the side.
A similarly sudden injury to Bollinger, Johnson or Peter Siddle would result in McKay debuting, but for now he is still finding his feet at international level. His first taste came during the recent tour of India, where he played his first two ODIs and remained cool on debut to dismiss Sachin Tendulkar for 175 with a slower ball in the dying stages to help Australia to victory.
"It was a massive jump from playing domestic cricket here and all of a sudden walking out in India with 45,000 screaming fans, it was a completely different atmosphere," McKay said. "To play against Sachin Tendulkar and Sehwag and Dhoni and these sort of guys, it was a great thrill and good to be a part of.
"In Australian first-class cricket you're playing against three or four seasoned campaigners and a couple of young kids with great ability coming through. But all of a sudden you're playing international cricket and you've got six or seven top batters who have played international cricket for a few years, so that's probably the biggest thing."
Even if McKay doesn't play in Adelaide this week, he has a good chance of continuing his international career when Australia's one-day internationals come around early next year. For now, holding next-cab-off-the-rank status is a fine place to be.
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo