Haddin back as Clarke's lieutenant
Australia's selectors are expected to name Brad Haddin as Michael Clarke's vice-captain and No. 1 gloveman for the tour of England, reverting to the leadership duo that delivered a 4-0 hiding of India on home soil two summers ago.
An Ashes squad of 16 is set to be revealed on Wednesday in Sydney, with Haddin's return to a post he has held sporadically in the past forcing a change in the wicketkeeping hierarchy. The younger keeper Matthew Wade will again be held in reserve after a year in the Test side, though both will be in the tour party. Wade has the chance to force his way into the XI as a batsman.
The former Test No. 3 Shaun Marsh is also looming as a surprise inclusion, his unarguable talent believed to have won the selectors over despite a poorly recent record. Not since his Test debut in Sri Lanka in 2011 has Marsh made a first-class century, and during the 2012-13 Australian summer he cobbled 152 runs at 19 in four Sheffield Shield matches.
Nevertheless, Marsh showed improved results from the moment the former Australia batting coach Justin Langer took over as coach of Western Australia in mid-season, excelling in the Big Bash League and then making a century for Australia A against the England Lions in Hobart before suffering a serious hamstring tear that he has only just recovered from.
Marsh's selection would be a blow to the international claims of numerous other batsmen, including the longtime reserve Usman Khawaja, the Twenty20 captain and ODI regular George Bailey, and the prolific top-order batsman Chris Rogers.
Among the bowlers, the young left-arm spinner Ashton Agar and the allrounder James Faulkner are thought to be vying for the final spot. Still a teenager, Agar turned plenty of heads for his composure and skill with the ball and the bat during his limited appearances for Western Australia during the summer, and went to India as an intern in the early part of a sorry tour.
Faulkner's allround skill and fiery temperament are admired by the selectors, and will be afforded extra experience of English conditions by the Australia A tour that precedes the Ashes. By naming 16, the selectors may leave themselves room to make an addition to the Test squad after glimpsing the Australia A tourists.
They are also keeping one eye on the diplomatic progress of the Pakistan-raised legspinner Fawad Ahmed, who is now unlikely to be granted a passport in time for the start of the England tour but may become eligible soon after. It is not inconceivable that he may be added to the Ashes squad following the second Test of the series at Lord's.
Mitchell Johnson is not expected to be chosen after a poor tour of India, in which he was one of the four players suspended, and four years on from a nightmarish 2009 Ashes series he began as the world's top-rated bowler but ended as the enigma he has remained to this day.
Haddin's expected appointment as vice-captain, only days after Shane Watson relinquished the post, is an acknowledgement of the leadership vacuum that opened up in the Australian Test side in India after the retirements of Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey.
An ankle sprain to Wade during the tour forced Haddin to be flown over as a replacement, and he then became the acting captain in the field during the third Test in Mohali when Clarke suffered from the back trouble that would rule him out of the fourth match. Haddin's presence on tour was welcomed, providing the sort of experience, wisdom and discipline lacking earlier in the trip, as demonstrated by the suspension of four players for failing to complete basic tasks.
Clarke and Haddin have been close friends and tactical confidantes for many years, ever since the wicketkeeper captained a young Clarke with New South Wales in the years before his Test debut in India in 2004. They formed a successful leadership axis during the home Tests against India in 2011-12, when Watson was absent due to injury.
Possible Ashes squad Michael Clarke (capt), Brad Haddin (vice-capt, wk), David Warner, Ed Cowan, Phillip Hughes, Shane Watson, Steve Smith, Shaun Marsh, Matthew Wade (wk), Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Ashton Agar, Jackson Bird.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here