Ricky Ponting has given the strongest indication yet that Beau Casson, the left-arm wrist spinner, will make his Test debut in the final match against West Indies in Barbados next week. Stuart MacGill's sudden retirement has left Australia searching for a new slow bowler and Casson is the only other specialist in the squad.
There are a number of part-time spin options for Ponting, with Michael Clarke picking up useful wickets in Antigua and Andrew Symonds also available. "The time is going to come somewhere and so next week could be as good a time as any," Ponting said after the drawn second Test. "Our next Test series after the West Indies is in India, and you don't want debutant spin bowlers playing over there. But we'll get down to Barbados and assess the conditions."
Following the retirement of Shane Warne, Australia have been reluctant to blood a young spinner, preferring to return to MacGill and Brad Hogg, who has also retired. Casson is a team-mate of MacGill's at New South Wales and is highly rated despite a first-class bowling average of 40. Casson took 29 wickets at 35.13 in last season's Pura Cup and also made 485 runs at 60.
"There is a young guy on tour that we have to whom we have to give some credit," Ponting said. "For my sake, I hope he debuts next week because I think it will be a great experience and a great opportunity."
Ponting hoped MacGill would be remembered in the right way. "He's been a great cricketer, there's no doubt about that," Ponting said in the Sydney Morning Herald. "If you look at his record and stack it up against anybody's, it's pretty formidable. I guess over the years he's always lived in Shane's shadow and quite often only ever played when Shane's been out injured or otherwise.
"We all hoped today that he would have ended on a really high note having bowled us to a victory, but that wasn't the way it was supposed to be. He tried all day for us today."