Uncapped Fekete, Bancroft in Test squad
Tasmania fast bowler Andrew Fekete is the surprise inclusion in Australia's Test squad for the upcoming tour of Bangladesh. Fekete and Western Australia opener Cameron Bancroft are the two uncapped members of the 15-man group, while Adam Voges has been named as vice-captain to Steven Smith for the two-Test tour next month.
Australia's selectors confirmed that Mitchell Johnson and Josh Hazlewood had been rested from the tour given their heavy workloads over the past few months, with Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle and Pat Cummins set to lead the pace attack. There were also recalls for Joe Burns, Usman Khawaja, Glenn Maxwell and spinner Steve O'Keefe, who made his Test debut in the UAE last year.
The retirements of Michael Clarke, Chris Rogers, Brad Haddin, Shane Watson and Ryan Harris on or after the recent Ashes tour forced Australia's selectors to look to the future with their squad for Bangladesh. A thumb injury suffered by David Warner during the ODIs in England also meant they had to find a new vice-captain, and Voges' domestic experience tipped things in his favour.
"It was a very tough decision to make, that," national selector Rod Marsh said. "We've got a lot of people that have played very few Test matches. The fact that Voges has captained Western Australia, the fact that we're playing in Bangladesh - it is quite possible to wake up in the morning and not be able to play if you've caught something ... If Steven Smith did get crook, it would have been very tough to have anyone else captain the side but Voges.
"He's had a lot of experience at captaincy, he's got a cool head, and I think he'll be an excellent vice-captain for Steven on his first tour of duty away from home as captain of the Australian Test team. Having said that, we're really going to miss David Warner. He was excited about his appointment as vice-captain and he's bitterly disappointed he can't make this tour."
At 35, Voges is comfortably the oldest man in a squad that is much shorter on experience than Australia is used to. The only other players aged in their thirties are Shaun Marsh, Siddle, O'Keefe and Fekete, 30.
"The retirements of five players from the squad that went on the Ashes tour, as well as issues of injury, form and conditions have brought about a major change in the profile of the touring party from the one that toured the British Isles," Rod Marsh said. "But with that change comes a fantastic opportunity for all the players going to Bangladesh.
"They are going as a young group with seven of the players aged 26 or less, and all 15 have the opportunity to kick on and, in the case of Cameron Bancroft and Andrew Fekete, kick off their Test careers and establish themselves as the core of the side for years to come."
Although Bancroft's inclusion was widely expected, as Australia sought top-order replacements for Rogers and Warner, Fekete was very much a left-field selection. He was the second-leading wicket taker in the Sheffield Shield last summer with 37 victims at 24.10, but his only prior first-class experience was six matches the previous season.
Originally from Victoria, Fekete played a solitary one-day game for his home state before moving to Tasmania, where he made his first-class debut aged 28 in late 2013. Australia's selectors were impressed with Fekete's bowling on the recent Australia A tour of India, where he claimed five wickets in two first-class matches.
"Andrew bowled really well last summer and followed that up on the A tour," Marsh said. "He can generate reverse swing and that ability could be extremely useful in the conditions we expect to encounter in Bangladesh."
Bancroft, 22, is a patient opening batsman who last summer made a 13-hour 211 for Western Australia and his temperament should mean he is suited to the challenges of Test cricket. He was the third leading Sheffield Shield run scorer last season with 896 at 47.15 and he too played well on the A tour of India.
"Cameron is a player who impressed everyone on the recent A tour of India," Marsh said. "He can bat for long periods of time and scored an outstanding 150 against India A in Chennai. On that tour he played spin well, fielded brilliantly at bat-pad and his whole demeanour was that of a player who is determined to play Test cricket. He scored almost 900 first-class runs last season, he's young, hungry and he could become a very good player for us over a long period of time."
Bancroft, Burns, Khawaja and Shaun Marsh loom as the candidates for the opening positions vacated by Rogers and Warner in Bangladesh. The make-up of the attack will depend on the pitches offered in Bangladesh, but there is every chance that a twin spin attack will be employed, with O'Keefe and Maxwell preferred to legspinner Fawad Ahmed as backup for Nathan Lyon.
"Stephen did well on the A tour," Marsh said. "We felt he bowled exceptionally well. It's true that Fawad didn't get many opportunities in either the West Indies or on the Ashes tour but when he did get them he didn't bowl as well as I'm sure he would have wanted.
"He will go back to Victoria and hopefully start taking wickets to give us the right type of problem to have as a National Selection Panel. With Stephen O'Keefe, Nathan Lyon and Glenn Maxwell we believe we have the right number and the right type of spinners for the conditions we expect to encounter."
The pace attack will be shorn of the speed of Johnson, who in challenging conditions in the UAE last year was the only Australian to average under 30 with the ball, and Bangladesh could be a tough place for Cummins to return to Test cricket for the first time in nearly four years. But Marsh said it was important that Johnson and Hazlewood were rested with six home Tests and a tour of New Zealand coming up.
"Mitchell Johnson and Josh Hazlewood were not considered for the tour as, after heavy workloads over the past six months and with a significant amount of cricket to come, we wanted to make sure they are right to go at the start of our domestic summer," he said.
"We expect both players to start bowling again in the next week or so, hopefully play some Matador Cup and Sheffield Shield cricket for their states and be ready for selection for the first home Test of the season, against New Zealand."
The Australians will depart for Bangladesh on September 28 ahead of a three-day warm-up game in Fatullah from October 3 to 5. That is followed by two Tests in Chittagong and Dhaka, Australia's first in Bangladesh since the 2006 tour on which Jason Gillespie famously made a double-century.
Australia Test squad Steven Smith (capt), Adam Voges (vice-capt), Cameron Bancroft, Joe Burns, Patrick Cummins, Andrew Fekete, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Peter Nevill, Stephen O'Keefe, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale