Andrew Hilditch, the chairman of selectors, has given Stuart MacGill's chances of replacing Shane Warne in the Test team an enormous boost, indicating MacGill is still the stand-out spinner in Australia. MacGill's international future looked uncertain when he was not selected for any of the Ashes Tests, with suggestions he could be overtaken by younger spinners like Dan Cullen and Cullen Bailey.
MacGill will be nearly 37 and will not have played for his country for 19 months when Australia play their next Test, against Sri Lanka in November. But Hilditch said Warne's long-time understudy deserved his shot. "There is no doubt that it's going to be a difficult hole to fill because [Warne's] been so great over such a long time and has won so many Test matches for us," Hilditch said.
"We've been really lucky to have had MacGill. He has been a really good Test legspinner and he's going to come into contention at the start of the next series. If he's fit and bowling well, he is obviously the person to look for."
Hilditch said MacGill had been considered for all five Ashes Tests, but had missed out because the selectors wanted three fast bowlers plus Warne. He said MacGill's disciplinary record - he was suspended for two weeks after a verbal stoush with an umpire in Sydney's club cricket in November - had no impact on him being overlooked.
"We regard Stuart very highly and to suggest his behaviour prevented him playing, there is no substance to that whatsoever," Hilditch said. "The reason Stuart didn't play was because we wanted to go with the three-pronged pace attack, which was really instrumental in us regaining the Ashes. England has a far better batting side than they showed and that's because of our bowling."
MacGill's cause is also likely to be aided by Hilditch's view that Australia's next group of spinners all need time to develop. He said Australia was likely to stick with a frontline attack of three fast men and a spinner, with Andrew Symonds or Shane Watson to act as the fifth bowler.