Jackson Bird and Mitchell Swepson were both added to Australia’s Test squad on their tour of Bangladesh on Saturday (August 5). Bird replaced fellow pacer James Pattinson, who had to be withdrawn due to an inflammation in his back. Swepson, the legspinner, took the spot that had been left vacant when the selectors announced a 13-man squad in June, having decided to rest Mitchell Starc.
Swepson’s inclusion was announced early in the morning, with the selectors opting to strengthen the spin department keeping the conditions in Bangladesh in mind. Swepson will join Nathan Lyon, the offspinner, and Ashton Agar, the left-arm spinner with Glenn Maxwell’s part-time offspin also there to call on. Bird will join Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins as the frontline pacers, with Hilton Cartwright providing the all-round option.
“We are comfortable with the fast-bowling stocks we have in the squad so have opted to add an additional spinner given the conditions we are likely to face in Bangladesh,” said Trevor Hohns, the national selector. “Mitchell is a very exciting young legspinner who we think will benefit immensely from further experience in the subcontinent.”
Pattinson was withdrawn a few hours after that, with a Cricket Australia spokesperson indicating that this was a precautionary measure aimed at allowing the paceman the best preparation for the Ashes that will take place later in the year in Australia.
Australia’s selectors had earlier left a spot open for the Bangladesh tour with Starc being rested, and it was expected that the Australia A tour of South Africa would serve as a pointer to picking a bowler. However, with the protracted pay dispute involving the cricketers and the board not being resolved in time, the Australia A squad didn’t travel to South Africa.
Bird acknowledged that the cancellation of the ‘A’ tour had probably affected his chances to press his claims for a call-up, though he maintained that not going was the right call. However, in what turned out to be a rollercoaster ride, Bird found himself eventually in the squad following the decision to withdraw Pattinson.
Swepson had also been named in Australia’s squad for the four-match Test series against India earlier in 2017 but didn’t play a single game.
If selected in the XI, Swepson would be playing his first competitive fixture in over eight months. His last competitive game was a Brisbane Heat fixture in the Big Bash League in January 2017 while his last first-class game was for Queensland against Western Australia in December 2016.
Bird’s last Test was the Boxing Day match against Pakistan in Melbourne in 2016. He has played eight Tests so far, taking 34 wickets at 27.47 after making his debut in late 2012.
Australia will travel to Bangladesh on August 18 after a week-long preparation camp in Darwin and play a two-day practice match in Fatullah on August 22 and 23. The first Test will be played in Mirpur from August 27 while the second Test begins on September 4 in Chittagong.
Australia squad: Steve Smith (capt), David Warner (vice-capt), Matthew Wade (wk), Ashton Agar, Jackson Bird, Hilton Cartwright, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, Matthew Renshaw, Mitchell Swepson.