Australian concerns about the readiness of their young batsmen to cope with Asian conditions have been underlined by the decision to send Travis Head to Sri Lanka ahead of the dead rubber third Test in Colombo, which starts from August 13.
Head was initially omitted from the ODI squad to face Sri Lanka in limited-overs matches, but following Australia's heavy defeats in consecutive Tests to surrender the Warne-Muralitharan Trophy, he will now train with the Test squad before remaining as part of the ODI team. This drastic change in plans emphasises the urgent nature of Australian worries about their substandard displays in this series.
The coach and selector Darren Lehmann categorically ruled out the possibility of Head taking part in the Colombo Test, but admitted the panel could now see the very real need to give young players as much exposure to Asian conditions as possible. Head must now be considered a strong chance to be taken with the Test squad to go to India next year, provided he can maintain his upward curve of run-making in the Sheffield Shield as captain of South Australia.
"We'll probably look at if there are any players who go home at the end of the Test series, but with Trav, we want him to come in for this prep for this Test," Lehmann said. "He's not going to play. There's no doubt about that. We see him as a really exciting young player for the future ... give him as much experience around one our Test group, and two our one-day group as we possibly can.
"We've been impressed with him. That's why he has come in a bit early. He's a young player who has the attributes we think are quite important here. We want to give him as much experience, because he's a young guy who has had some success. He hasn't had enough international exposure and we think it's a really good time to do that, with an eye on the future as well."
Head's progress as a young player has been watched closely by the selectors for some time, as they are eager to get another young batsman into the Australian side across all formats with the prospect of forging a long career in the manner of Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Steven Smith before him. Earlier this year he was withdrawn from the Australia A side to play a winter series at home in order to allow him to gain greater exposure to English conditions with Yorkshire.
"You're always looking at those things," Lehmann said. "When you haven't had the success you'd like, you've got to look at different things. We're really happy with the group. Obviously we'd like different results. But we are just bringing him in for the experience more than anything else."
Another factor in Head's selection is the desire to familiarise him with the Australian team set-up and players, ideally to form relationships that will help him when he does play. The left-arm spinner Jon Holland had a contrasting experience last week when he was thrust into the Test team without having spent much recent time around the national side, and without any of his Victoria team-mates having made the tour.