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News

Matt Kuhnemann called up as Australia face selection headaches

Legspinner Mitchell Swepson is returning to Australia for the birth of his first child

Left-arm spinner Matthew Kuhnemann has been called up to Australia's squad in India and is a "live chance" make his Test debut in Delhi on Friday.
Kuhnemann, 26, is flying in while Mitchell Swepson makes a pre-planned return home for the birth of his first child. Swepson is due to return ahead of the third Test, the venue for which remains uncertain with doubts over whether Dharamshala will be able to host the game.
The chances of Kuhnemann coming straight into contention are reasonably high if Cameron Green becomes available, with Australia desperate to find an option to try and replicate the success Ravindra Jadeja enjoyed in the opening Test having not had the faith to select Ashton Agar in Nagpur.
Kuhnemann is inexperienced at first-class level with 35 wickets at 34.80 in 13 matches, and often struggles to get a starting place for Queensland when Swepson is available. However, he showed promise when he made his ODI debut against Sri Lanka after being a late addition to that squad and was close to making this original tour party.
Todd Murphy, who was preferred to Agar, had an outstanding debut with 7 for 124 in just his eighth first-class match as the one bright spot for Australia in their innings thrashing.
"Got a phone call yesterday morning when walking out for the warm-ups. Was pretty shocked," Kuhnemann said after Queensland's Sheffield Shield match against Victoria. "I was just lucky enough that my passport was in my bag.
"I watched every day [of the first Test] just being such a fan. These series are so good to watch. Todd Murphy was exceptional and sort of watched how Jadeja bowled. So just really excited to get over there.
"I was fortunate enough to stay with the Test guys and bowl to them in the nets in Sri Lanka so that's still pretty fresh in my memory. I learned heaps just being over there for a couple months. If I got the opportunity I'd like to think I'd be okay."
However, Kuhnemann's selection would likely require Australia to go down the route of three specialist spinners and will depend on the nature of the surface in Delhi and the fitness of Green so that he could share the pace bowling with captain Pat Cummins.
"He's a live chance to play in the next Test match," Australia coach Andrew McDonald said on Sunday. "If we play three spinners then we clearly want back-up here and available in the squad if that's the way we want to go."
Green is making promising progress in his recovery from the broken finger he suffered at the MCG against South Africa and has built up his workload over the last few days in Nagpur. He had two-hour batting sessions and is bowling close to full capacity. The main concern for the management has been building up Green's bowling after the layoff.
"We're hopeful. It's been six weeks now," McDonald said. "I think he's actually got his final X-ray or scan today. He does allow us different options to the way that we want to structure up."
Mitchell Starc has arrived in Dehli having missed the start of the tour as he recovered from the finger injury he also sustained in Melbourne. Australia face some tricky decisions over how to balance their side if they want to include Starc. Scott Boland was unfortunate to finish wicketless in the first Test.
"[Starc] will have a rest day today [in Delhi] and then he'll train tomorrow on his own up there," McDonald said. "A couple of the staff members will go up there. We're hopeful that both of those are back on the selection table and that would change the balance of our side."
Josh Hazlewood won't be available for the second Test having missed the first due to an Achilles issue that continues to nag him. He had a solid bowl on the eve of the Nagpur Test and then needed three days to recover before having another bowl on Saturday.
"He's close. So I think it's just probably the load in that Achilles," McDonald said. "We just don't want to push it. He's going to have three days off and then have a main bowl if he gets through that."
Meanwhile, Matt Renshaw's knee will continue to be monitored after he spent considerable time off the field on the second day in Nagpur. He had retained his place in the middle order when Travis Head was left out but made just 0 and 2 at No. 5.
McDonald defended the Head decision but noted in hindsight that Renshaw didn't perform as expected.
"We valued others' skill sets in those extreme conditions," McDonald said. "I think the discussion point that we went through in the process will be different to the hindsight. And the hindsight is that those people that you will compare the competition for place around didn't perform the way that we'd probably expected.
"[Head] had different thoughts on that and that's fair enough. And he's entitled to have different thoughts on that along with others. And we're not saying any decision that we make is right or wrong.
"The Todd Murphy one was heavily discussed as well. Could we play the ball spinning in, two of those types of bowlers against the Indian batting line-up, all those discussions that we had behind the scenes are pretty much what you discussed as well."

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo