James Pattinson was a notable omission from Australia's Test squad for next month's tour of Bangladesh, but captain Steven Smith hopes he will be back in the mix once he has become more accustomed to his new bowling action. Pattinson played two ODIs on the recent tour of England but failed to claim a wicket, and he is expected to turn out for Victoria in next month's Matador Cup.
Two severe back injuries over the past two years contributed to Pattinson reworking his bowling action to be more side-on, and it remains a work in progress. He showed some encouraging signs on this year's Australia A tour of India, but national selector Rod Marsh said when announcing the squad for the Bangladesh tour that Pattinson was down on confidence.
"According to the reports I've got from [selectors] Trevor Hohns and Darren Lehmann in England is that he's lacking a bit of confidence," Marsh said on Monday. "It won't hurt him to go back to Matador Cup and Shield cricket and find that form that made him a very, very hot prospect a few years ago."
Smith captained Pattinson in the one-day series in England and agreed that he would benefit from some more time refining his action with Victoria.
"I think for Jimmy it's just about playing a bit more cricket first," Smith told reporters in Sydney after arriving home from the England tour on Tuesday night. "Hopefully he can get back and play in the Matador Cup and the first couple of Shield games.
"He's got a different action at the moment and he's got to get himself comfortable with that, keep looking to get better with that and more consistent. I'm sure we'll see him in the future."
Smith has a week and a half at home before flying out to Bangladesh for his first tour as Test captain, and he will be in charge of a squad with a vastly different look to the one that lost the Ashes in England. One of the most surprising inclusions was the Tasmania fast bowler Andrew Fekete, who has played only 18 first-class matches and is a mystery not only to the public, but to his captain as well.
"I haven't seen a lot of him bowl, to be perfectly honest with you," Smith said. "I heard he bowled really well last year in the Shield season, and in India for the A stuff as well. I think the conditions are likely to be quite similar to what the A team faced in India, and he got the ball to reverse over there and bowled really well. I'm looking forward to seeing how he goes."
One man who Smith is pleased to see back in the Test squad is his New South Wales team-mate, the left-arm spinner Steve O'Keefe, who made his Test debut against Pakistan in the UAE last year. O'Keefe was overlooked for the Ashes tour but impressed on the A tour of India, where he claimed 14 wickets in the two first-class matches in Chennai.
"Stephen O'Keefe has been the stand-out performer with the ball as a spinner in the first-class system for quite some time now," Smith said. "He had a very good tour in India with the A squad, he bowled really well over there. It's nice to have him back in the squad."
Australia will have a new opening combination in Bangladesh due to the retirement of Chris Rogers and the thumb injury suffered by David Warner, with the uncapped Cameron Bancroft in the running along with Joe Burns, Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh. Bancroft and Burns are the least experienced of the quartet but Smith believes they could both turn out in the same XI.
"I think it's a good opportunity for both of them to come in and potentially play in the same line-up," Smith said. "There's going to be spots up for grabs. It's a new team. But I think that's really exciting for us going forward."