Despite being overlooked for the Australian squad for the fifth Ashes Test in Sydney, Andrew Hilditch, Australia's chief selector, has insisted that Stuart MacGill remains in the thinking of the selection panel.
MacGill missed out as Australia chose to name an unchanged bowling attack for the final Test. Australia now have no Test assignments until next summer, a gap of nearly 11 months, by which time MacGill will be approaching his 37th birthday. By then, with Shane Warne having left the scene, Australia may well be considering younger spinning options in Dan Cullen, the off-spinner, and Cullen Bailey, a legspinner, reasoned The Sydney Morning Herald.
The paper cited "occasional" instances of bad behaviour, and a recent suspension by his state side for an altercation with an umpire in grade cricket, as factors in a bleak future. But Hilditch maintained in a statement that MacGill was still in contention. "The national selection panel carefully considered the possibility of naming a 13 for the Sydney Test to give us an extra spinning option. Stuart MacGill was carefully considered for that position and remains very much in the thoughts of the national selection panel."
Over the years, MacGill has become something of a Sydney fixture, a ground traditionally suited to spinners. He has played in eight of the last ten Sydney Tests and his numbers (53 wickets at under 25) are better than even Warne's (62 wickets in 13 Tests at over 27) at the ground.
That record was, however, balanced against the excellent performances of the current attack through the Ashes, as Hilditch explained. "However, to include two specialist spinners in Sydney would've meant changing the attack which has performed so well in the first four Tests and has been an integral part of Australia's successful regaining of the Ashes.
"After considering this, the selection panel thought it appropriate to remain with the same 12 and the same balance of the attack for the Sydney Test. Although Sydney traditionally will lend support to the spinners, we consider a three-man pace bowling attack (Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Stuart Clark) with Shane Warne and Andrew Symonds to bowl spin is well balanced and suited to the conditions we are likely to encounter in Sydney."
MacGill is two short of 200 Test wickets from his 40 Tests, and in the last series he played for Australia, against Bangladesh in April this year, he picked up 17 wickets. The legspinner insisted just over a week ago that he was still happy to play on for another "two to three years."