Aaron Finch, Travis Head, Michael Neser, Brendan Doggett and Marnus Labuschagne, who are yet to don the Australian white jersey, have been named in the 15-man squad for their upcoming two-match Test series against Pakistan in United Arab Emiates (UAE).
Meanwhile, 62 Test-veteran Peter Siddle, who last played for Australia in November 2016, too makes a return to the side. Large chunk of players are currently in India with the 'A' side involved in two four-day games. The likes of Usman Khawaja, Jon Holland, Head, Neser, Labuschagne and Mitchell Marsh have been in good form for the 'A' side.
With Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft all banned, and Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins sidelined due to injury, there were expected to be quite a few changes. Tim Paine will continue to lead the team, while his deputy will be announce ahead of the series.
“There has been significant change to our Test squad, due to the unavailability of a number of key players,” selector Trevor Hohns said in a statement. “That said, we firmly believe the squad selected is up to the challenge ahead, and is capable of playing a brand of cricket that can perform well in this series against Pakistan.
“It’s a blend of experienced players who have a significant amount of either Test or first-class cricket, and a number of younger players who we are confident are ready for the Test arena. Looking at the conditions we may face in the UAE, we believe this squad covers all bases. We have selected four front-line fast bowlers and three spinners, with Mitchell Marsh ready to play as an all-rounder and a number of top-order batsmen who also offer part-time spin options.
Finch, 31, has been an integral part of Australia in the limited-overs setup but this is the first time has been included in the Tests. The right-hander will be expected to open the batting with Matthew Renshaw. Meanwhile, Siddle is one of the four pacers in the squad alongside Mitchell Starc, Neser and Doggett. If selected to debut, Doggett would become just the second Indigenous cricketer to play Test cricket for the Australian Men’s Cricket Team, following Jason Gillespie.
"Aaron is in sensational form, and this is the right time to give him a chance to play Test cricket," said Hohns. "He has performed well in the Sheffield Shield in recent seasons, and brings added experience and leadership to this group.
"Peter is a proven performer in the Test arena, who has been in outstanding form in his recent first-class outings over in England. His experience will be crucial for this bowling group, and we know that he is a warrior who can bowl the type of long, tight spells which may be required in the conditions we expect to face.
“Brendan is an exciting prospect, a fast bowler with raw pace and wicket-taking ability. He provides an additional option to Mitchell Starc if extra pace is called for, and this is an ideal opportunity to get him involved in a national set-up for the first time after his recent showings for Queensland and Australia A.”
Selectors have overlooked Glenn Maxwell who is considered to be Australia's finest batsman, from the current batch, in spinning conditions. Joe Burns and Peter Handscomb, who were both in the playing XI for the Johannesburg Test, have also been dropped.
“Joe, Peter and Glenn were players we discussed when selecting the batting group, but we had to take into account the conditions and competition we are set to face in the upcoming series," explained Hohns. "All three remain on our radar for Test cricket, but we want them to perform for their States and continue to push their case ahead of what is going to be a big Australian summer."
The squad will assemble in Brisbane for a pre-tour camp on September 16. The first of two Tests will be played in Dubai from October 7 before the action shifts to Abu Dhabi.
Squad: Tim Paine (capt/wk), Ashton Agar, Brendan Doggett, Aaron Finch, Travis Head, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Michael Neser, Matthew Renshaw, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc.