Australia's selectors turned the clock back to the Ashes by recalling Damien Martyn, Michael Kasprowicz and Shaun Tait for the three-Test tour of South Africa starting next week. The team has undergone a rash of changes with Brad Hodge dropped in favour of Michael Clarke while Nathan Bracken and Shane Watson will return home next week with the other members of the one-day squad. Stuart MacGill won a place as Shane Warne's back-up and there was no spot for Jason Gillespie.
The announcement ends the international hiatus of Martyn and Kasprowicz, who feared their globe-trotting days were over after they were scapegoats for the Ashes loss. "Martyn has had some time out of the team and we feel this is the right time to slot him back in at No. 4," Trevor Hohns, the chairman of selectors, said. "The reintroduction of Clarke follows some productive time away from the Test team. Hodge can count himself unlucky not to be included." Hodge has missed the big scores in the Pura Cup that were necessary for inclusion.
Kasprowicz and Tait have benefited from strong domestic seasons and the absence of Glenn McGrath, who has stayed home to be with his family. "The decision on the make-up of the fast bowling quartet was not an easy one, given that we are without McGrath," Hohns said. "We wanted a blend of pace, youth, experience and line and length and believe we have all of these covered with our selection. Tait is coming back from a shoulder injury and he's bowling at full pace so we're happy that the injury isn't hampering his bowling." The squad will be reviewed after the series for the two-match tour to Bangladesh next month.
MacGill was wary ahead of the team announcement after previous disappointing misses, but Ricky Ponting has pushed for him to be part of a twin-spin offering in the first Test at Cape Town on March 16. "I've believed I was a certainty to make tours in the past at times but was proven wrong," MacGill told the Sydney Morning Herald. "I missed one against Pakistan and two against India when I thought I should have been pretty close. But I do feel I deserve a spot and that I'll be up to the task."
Australia chose two legspinners in five home Tests this summer as doubts about MacGill bowling in tandem with Warne eased. "I'd pick me for a number of reasons, one of them being that having been around for a while now, I have a reasonable level of experience in various situations," he told the paper. "That could be particularly valuable around a young attack ... for this tour and the future if players like Glenn McGrath aren't available. Australia doesn't have a bloke like [the former coach] Bob Simpson around, so the teaching for the younger guys comes from the player group."
Australia squad Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Ricky Ponting (capt), Michael Clarke, Damien Martyn, Michael Hussey, Andrew Symonds, Adam Gilchrist (wk), Shane Warne, Brett Lee, Michael Kasprowicz, Stuart MacGill, Stuart Clark, Shaun Tait.