Australia in India 2008-09 September 12, 2008

Symonds out, McGain in for India

Cricinfo staff

The offspinner Jason Krejza was a surprise inclusion in Australia's squad © Getty Images

Andrew Symonds will not play Australia's Tests in India while the incumbent slow bowler Beau Casson has also been overlooked in favour of the uncapped 36-year-old legspinner Bryce McGain. Shane Watson returns to the Test frame and the bowlers Jason Krejza and Peter Siddle are hoping for debuts after joining a 15-man squad with several changes to the group that visited the West Indies this year.

Australia are pleased with Ricky Ponting's recovery from wrist surgery and Matthew Hayden, while chosen subject to completely overcoming his ongoing heel injury, is expected to play. One of the biggest question marks was over Symonds, who has averaged 77.70 in Tests in the past 12 months. He was also one of the central figures in the heated home series against India earlier this year, when he was involved in a racism row with Harbhajan Singh.

It was widely expected that Symonds would struggle to be in contention having been sent home from Darwin only a fortnight ago due to the team's frustration with his attitude. Andrew Hilditch, the chairman of selectors, said Symonds was now going through a process managed by Cricket Australia to give him the chance to decide on his future.

"Cricket Australia has told us that selectors will be advised once Andrew can be considered again for selection and we hope we can look forward to that advice in due course because as we all know, a fit and fully-committed Andrew Symonds can be a world beater," Hilditch said. "In the meantime, our advice was that he was not available to be considered for selection this time."

His exclusion leaves Australia without one of their best players of spin and a part-time bowler on a trip where Harbhajan and Anil Kumble could be a handful. Of equal concern to Australia is that their own slow-bowling stocks are thin, with two untested players the preferred options. Casson, McGain and Krejza were expecting a bowl-off of sorts on their Australia A trip to India this month but rain and injuries meant only McGain had a decent opportunity.

Casson, who made his Test debut in Barbados in June and is the only frontline spinner with a Cricket Australia contract, sent down just one over against India A in Bangalore before hurting his hamstring. Krejza had no chance to bowl when the second match in Hyderabad was washed out. McGain picked up three wickets in the opening game but missed out on a second-innings spell due to a minor strain to his right shoulder and has been selected subject to fitness.

McGain's relative success and strong Pura Cup season for Victoria makes him the likely first-choice spinner just a year after he was working full-time in the IT section of a bank. Having been kept out of state cricket for most of his career by a succession of Victoria slow men including Shane Warne, Colin Miller and Cameron White, McGain now has a good chance of becoming Australia's oldest Test debutant since the 38-year-old Bob Holland in 1984.

He will be competing with Krejza, 25, an aggressive offspinner who likes to flight the ball but does not have an especially strong first-class record with 43 wickets at 45.46. He has not managed a five-wicket haul at state level and collected 18 first-class victims at 47.11 in 2007-08, which was his second season with Tasmania having switched from New South Wales.

"Bryce McGain was the standout leg-spinner at interstate level last year and we think he is really well suited to the Indian conditions and bowling plans," Hilditch said. "His story is a great example of how those who perform at interstate level will be rewarded. Jason Krejza had a good season for Tasmania last year but is a selection very much for Indian conditions. The selectors felt right-arm finger spinners would perform well in India and Jason now has a chance to prove himself at the international level."

Siddle, 23, also comes into the squad fresh from the Australia A trip. A right-arm fast bowler with genuine speed and the ability to swing the ball, Siddle has had three stints at the Academy while establishing himself with Victoria. He has had ongoing shoulder problems and missed more than half the Pura Cup season due to injury in 2007-08, but his 33 wickets at 15.75 from five games highlighted his value as a strike weapon.

Siddle is likely to be second in line outside the starting pace attack with Doug Bollinger set for a long-awaited Test debut should the opportunity arise. Ashley Noffke was not included in the squad despite being part of the group that visited the West Indies.

Australia must also weigh up how to use Watson, who has replaced Symonds as the seventh batsman. Simon Katich's two Test centuries in the Caribbean make him the likely candidate to fill Symonds' position in the starting 11, although Watson's all-round skills and new-found fitness make him a tempting prospect.

Despite being on the international scene for six years Watson has played only three Tests, all of which came in 2005. A terrible run with injuries, particularly hamstring problems, has limited him to on-and-off ODI appearances, although he has now established himself as a quality one-day opener and is hoping to transfer the success to the Test arena.

The changing nature of Australia's line-up has left the squad with only four men - Ponting, Hayden, Katich and Michael Clarke - who have played a Test in India. The players depart on September 21 and they will have two warm-up games and nearly a fortnight in India before the first Test in Bangalore, which starts on October 9.

Squad: Matthew Hayden, Phil Jaques, Ricky Ponting (capt), Michael Hussey, Michael Clarke, Simon Katich, Shane Watson, Brad Haddin (wk), Brett Lee, Jason Krejza, Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Bryce McGain, Stuart Clark, Doug Bollinger

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Gerry on September 13, 2008, 21:48 GMT

    This is a similar decision to Obama not choosing Hillary as his running mate - you can rationlise or justify it in as many words as you like, but the bottom line is you have laid the foundations of a likely loss.

    What has happened to the wonderful pragmatism of carrying Waugh & Warne when they should have been banned?

    One has to wonder whether the problem is solely on Symonds side or if there are the politics of envy at work from the rest of the team?

    Either way it should have been sorted out with a few blunt words, not mollycoddling counselling.

  • S. on September 13, 2008, 16:00 GMT

    Symonds needs to be in the Aus cricket team and i think the board knows just how valuable he is to them. The reason they have sent him home from Darwin was probably not just one incident but reoccuring incidents and they probably had no choice becuase you can't create negativitiy among other team members by easing up on certain players and we all know that Cricket Aus takes action ( not always the right one). Having said that it is clear the Cricket Aus will have Symonds back, and the reasons are evident based on their team selection for India. Aus are selecting a 36-year old spinner becuase they know that if a young player is selected and he performs well, it will be tough for them to justify having Symonds in the side again. They truly want to give him a fair chance to be back in the team. Although they should have handled his disciplinary issue with a little more respect considering all he has done for them.

  • Damien on September 13, 2008, 14:01 GMT

    Brave selections from the board. Brave, brave and brave. In all honesty, this team probably isn't good enough to beat India in India. The batting line-up is good enough to make the runs, but although the pace attack is potentially top-class, none have the experience of test conditions in India, and may very well get found out. Secondly, unless a miracle occurs in the discovery of a gifted spin bowler, these players will benefit greatly from the experience, but will not be good enough to test the Indian batsmen. Remember Brad Hogg during India's last visit to Australia. I've never seen Hogg bowl so well, and he really wasn't much trouble for the Indian batsmen. In fact, except for Ganguly's occasional problem reading the ball out of Hogg's hand, the other batsmen only got out to him from ill-disciplined shot selection. Guile is the only way to out-think the Indian batsmen with the turning ball, and McGain is the only one with any chance in the coming series. All draws most likely.

  • Srinivas on September 13, 2008, 11:23 GMT

    This shows real Australian way of selecting team and they indeed are taking this tour very seriously, but they really lack depth in their bowling with Lee coming from Injury break and spin bowling line up does not have veriety, Ponting and Hayden who both are backbone to their batting are also coming after injury and break so it is going to be tough for Aussies. Indians though have Advantage when i look at Aussie lineup but Indian bowlers and batsmen have to fire to really win the series, Indian batsmen have to play well.

  • James on September 13, 2008, 2:00 GMT

    I agree with sydneypanda & Phadu - bowling line up is very inexperienced. No Symonds is obviously a big loss, but his position seems (batsman/spinner all-rounder) to be covered by Katich who if picked will have to roll the arm over a bit this series.

    I think it is a bit odd that despite Bracken's immense ODI success that he isn't considered for a test-call up - but with Johnson & Bollinger there is adequate Left Arm Fast.

    I would have liked to have picked one more front line batsman who could bowl, perhaps Marcus North, bowls off-spin as well - as opposed to Peter Siddle. Although he seems to be touring for experience purposes and as a safety net - but good on him, he had a good season in Pura Cup. Hopefully it isn't too long until Moises Henriques is given a similar opportunity in the test squad.

  • sean on September 12, 2008, 23:48 GMT

    I think this team will do well, but does anyone have any thoughts on why Natan Bracken (no 1 one day bowler in the world) wouldnt be reconsidered, when we need experience?

  • Phani on September 12, 2008, 18:51 GMT

    This selection gives two pointers a) Australia are taking this tour very seriously and included people from Australia A squad- Simon Katich who is considered a good player of spin already tried on Australia A tour and spinners as well. b) If I were Ricki Ponting I would be concerned about batting prospects with Adam Gilchrist retired and Symonds not available for what ever fishy reason. In this team apart from Hayden and Clarke no batsman has a history of success on Indian subcontinent. In the previous tour there were Martyn and Lehmann apart from ever exuberent Gilly.

    On the bowling front apart from Clark and Lee nobody is tested as yet.

    I must say Australian selectors at least on paper could not come up with a great looking team. Only time will tell if this is enough!!

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