Australia's first Test match collective since the Newlands ball tampering scandal will be a statement about indifferent playing stocks. It will also be about the sorts of characters Justin Langer and the selectors think are capable of weathering the team's biggest storm since the mid-1980s.

Suspensions robbing Langer of Steven Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, plus injuries ruling out Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins, have created the biggest talent hole in the Australian Test side since probably 1985. Back then, they had to grapple with the retirements of Dennis Lillee, Greg Chappell and Rod Marsh, along with having to contend with mass defections to tour South Africa during Apartheid.

At the time, a selection panel chaired by Lawrie Sawle, and also featuring the recently retired Chappell, pushed for long-term thinking. The approach was endorsed by the new coach Bob Simpson and the captain Allan Border, but two ignominious summers were endured before it began to bear fruit in the second half of 1987.

In the faster moving, social media fried world of 2018, Langer and Cricket Australia are aware they are unlikely to get as much time to rebuild, while ongoing cultural reviews swirl around the governing body. To that end, the selectors are expected to mix youthful names with older salts previously deemed either surplus to requirements of close to it.

Two well-traveled Victorians, Peter Siddle and Aaron Finch, are expected to be included, with the former's strong record in English county cricket for Essex this year matched by the latter's improvement as a long-form batsman in recent seasons. This after he was earlier pigeonholed as a limited overs bully susceptible to the moving ball. That question of Finch is at least balanced out by the likelihood of dry surfaces in the UAE for the series against Pakistan.

Other players likely to find favour with Langer include the South Australian captain Travis Head, and the back-up seam pair of Jhye Richardson and Chris Tremain. It is less clear how Glenn Maxwell and Peter Handscomb will fare after recent batting misadventures, with the thoughtful Queensland accumulator Marnus Labuschagne believed to have made a serious claim for a batting berth with his displays for Australia A in India.

The primary spin spots are set to be occupied by Nathan Lyon and Jon Holland, leaving the left-armer Ashton Agar and wrist spinner Mitch Swepson to duel over the remaining place in the squad. The Western Australia captain Mitchell Marsh and his brother Shaun can both expect to figure in the touring party, as can a noticeably fitter Usman Khawaja. The aforementioned trio are rare morsels of certainty for Langer.

"Do we know the best six batsmen in Australia? The answer is 'no'," he told The Australian last month. "You take Smith who has got 79 hundreds, you take Warner who has got 88 hundreds -- I am talking about all A-grade cricket -- you take those out.

"You take [out]Cameron Bancroft who you could say had just started to find his feet, he was a bit of the heartbeat of the team. You take your two most successful batsmen … there is certainly some questions."

As wicketkeeper captain, Tim Paine recently ventured to the United States alongside Langer, the team performance manager Pat Howard and the outgoing chief executive James Sutherland. Most memorably, Paine was afforded a full morning in the Wrigley Field dressing room of the Chicago Cubs, where he shared trade secrets with the likes of the catcher and 2018 All-Star Wilson Contreras while the managerial figures learned from the front office of the 2016 World Series champions.

For Paine and Langer here was another lesson similar to that taken from the experience of Australian cricket in the 1980s - namely that cultural change and sustained performance improvement come largely from careful assembly of a team and organisation over time. For that reason alone, the building blocks of the UAE squad to face Pakistan will be more significant than just about any team Langer and his offsiders put together.

Possible squad: Tim Paine (capt, wk), Aaron Finch, Matt Renshaw, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Marsh, Travis Head, Mitchell Starc, Chris Tremain, Jon Holland, Nathan Lyon, Jhye Richardson, Ashton Agar