Mitchell Starc’s return to Test cricket has been put on hold as he was not named in Australia’s 13-man squad for their two games in Bangladesh in August-September this year.
Starc had suffered a stress fracture on his right foot during the second Test against India in Bangalore in March, and was ruled out of the remaining two games. He, however, recovered in time to lead Australia’s attack in the Champions Trophy in England and Wales. He finished as his team’s best bowler with five wickets, but Australia crashed out of the league stages after two of their matches were washed out, and they lost the must-win game against the hosts.
“Mitchell was due to go for follow up scans after the Champions Trophy, as a part of his recovery plan. These scans have indicated his previous stress fracture has still not fully healed to the extent we would like,” David Beakely, Australia’s physiotherapist, said on Friday (June 16). “He will now undertake a period of rest from bowling with the aim to have him return for the one-day series in India in late September as he begins his build up to the Ashes.”
Josh Hazlewood will lead the seam attack, which also includes Pat Cummins and James Pattinson, the right-arm seamer who has not played Test cricket since February last year. Pattinson had asked the national selectors not to consider him for the tour of India as replacement for an injured Starc while he aimed to get his body fully fit for the rigours of five-day cricket. He was a part of Australia’s Champions Trophy squad, but did not play a game and has now returned to Nottinghamshire to fulfil his county contract.
The selectors dropped Steve O’Keefe, the left-arm spinner who took 12 for 70 in the win against India in the first Test in Pune, as they felt his intensity dropped after that game. Nathan Lyon will have Ashton Agar, who has not played a competitive game since January this year, for company in the spin department.
“Ashton has continued to impress us with his form and we believe his bowling is at a level where he deserves to be playing on the highest stage. He will work nicely in tandem with Nathan Lyon and also brings a great all-round package to the team,” Trevor Hohns, the national selector, said. “Whilst Steve O’Keefe bowled well in Pune, he did not maintain this level in the remaining matches of the series and we believe the timing is right for Ashton to enter the set-up and test his allrounder ability.”
Hilton Cartwright also has been rewarded for his consistency, and has replaced Shaun Marsh in the squad. “Hilton averages nearly 60 runs in first-class cricket and was the second highest run-scorer in the Sheffield Shield last season with 861 runs,” Hohns added. “He is a quality player who we believe has a big future for Australia and we are very keen to see him carry on his good form in the sub-continent.”
Jackson Bird, Mitchell Swepson, Marcus Stoinis and Mitchell Marsh, who is still recovering from an injury, are the others who travelled to India but are not a part of this team. Another member will be added to the squad after Australia A’s tour of South Africa.
Like against India, S Sriram will join the team as a spin consultant.
The Australian side will arrive in Bangladesh on August 18, and play a two-day tour match in Fatullah on August 22. The first Test in Mirpur is from August 27, while the second Test in Chittagong is from September 4. The series, originally scheduled in 2015, was cancelled after Australia pulled out because of security concerns. Cricket Australia subsequently withdrew the Under-19 team from the junior World Cup in 2016. Pat Howard, CA’s executive general manager, said they are now satisfied with the security provided to the squad.
“The Bangladesh Cricket Board and the Bangladesh Government have provided satisfactory levels of assurance and security for this tour to proceed at this stage, and we’re very grateful to them for this,” Howard said. “We will continue to work with them to finalise plans but also monitor advice from government agencies and our own security advisors about the security risk. Our number one priority will always be the safety and security of our players and support staff when travelling to any country. Players selected for this tour will continue to receive regular security status updates prior to travelling.”
Howard also said that the squad was chosen independent of the status of the ongoing pay dispute between CA and Australia Cricketers’ Association.
“Selectors have also chosen this Bangladesh squad irrespective and independent of the status of the MoU,” he said. “We are working towards a resolution being in place by 30 June and look forward to continuing to support these players to perform at their very best on the global stage.”
This is Australia’s second Test tour of Bangladesh. They beat the home team 2-0 in April 2006. That series is best remembered for Jason Gillespie scoring an unbeaten 201 from No.3 in Chittagong in what would be his last game. Australia have not won a Test series in Asia since prevailing over Sri Lanka in 2011.
Squad: Steven Smith (capt), David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Matthew Renshaw, Nathan Lyon, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Glenn Maxwell, Matthew Wade (wk), James Pattinson, Peter Handscomb, Hilton Cartwright, Ashton Agar.