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Mitchell Marsh, Stephen O'Keefe to herald new dawn in Australian cricket

IANS | Updated: October 21, 2014, 12:59 PM IST
Mitchell Marsh, Stephen O'Keefe to herald new dawn in Australian cricket

Canberra: On the eve of a new Test series against Pakistan, the Australian cricket team is on the verge of a major makeover.

With Mitchell Marsh and Stephen O'Keefe expected to receive their first baggy green caps ahead of the first Test, starting Wednesday in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), many more players are likely to be ushered through the door in the coming months, reports Xinhua.

The second Test match is scheduled to start from Oct 30 at Abu Dhabi.

National selector Mark Waugh this week hinted that fast bowlers Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Coulter-Nile could also be fast-tracked into the Test side this summer. "Both of them could easily do that sooner rather than later," Waugh said.

At Twenty20 (T20) level, a positive revolution has been going on. When Australia named a 13-man Twenty20 squad Monday for three matches against South Africa, it featured all of nine players with fewer than 10 international appearances.

Uncapped duo Ben Dunk and Nathan Reardon were the surprise inclusions, with youngsters Sean Abbott, Cameron Boyce, Nic Maddinson, Kane Richardson and Ben Cutting also hoping to build on promising platforms.

Dunk was included as the team's wicketkeeper, just days after becoming the first Australian to hit a List A double-century when he carted an unbeaten 229 from just 157 deliveries for Tasmania.

Reardon earned a call-up after scoring 171 runs at an avearge of 34.20 for Adelaide Strikers in last season's Big Bash League.

If both Marsh and O'Keefe play in Dubai Wednesday, it could represent the first time in close to three years - when James Pattinson, Dave Warner and Mitchell Starc debuted against New Zealand - that Australia has blooded multiple players in a Test.

Upon signing a new one-year contract extension last week, taking him through to the summer of 2017, Australian coach Darren Lehmann cited the need for Australia to build upon a promising start under his guidance.

Lehmann identified a desire for "leaders" and "aggressive players" to come into the Australian system under all forms of cricket, fitting both his style as a player and now as a coach.

With Marsh and O'Keefe, he has both in abundance.

According to current skipper Michael Clarke, not only is Marsh an aggressor at the crease, he's also a leader and potentially a future Test captain.

"I believe Mitchell Marsh can be a future captain of Australia, " Clarke wrote in The Daily Telegraph.

"That might sound like a big call for a bloke who has only turned 23 and has yet to play a Test match.

"But I have toured with him quite a few times now and continue to be impressed with his talent, knowledge and game awareness. His cricketing maturity is at least five years ahead of the date of birth printed on his passport."

O'Keefe is built in a similar mould. The 29-year-old has earned his place in the Test side aftr claiming 65 wickets in his last 19 Sheffield Shield matches.

But key to Australia developing the next phase of Test cricketers remains a nice balance between youth and experience.

According to Waugh, players such as Shane Watson, 33, remain crucial in helping to nurture the budding young talent.

"We still need to pick some quality players that have played for Australia before and Watson, we know what he can do," Waugh said.

In the hot and humid conditions of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, both Marsh and O'Keefe will be exposed to the first real test of the new Lehmann era.

Their success could pave the way in Australian cricket for a seamless transition: from old guard to young Turks.

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First Published: October 21, 2014, 12:59 PM IST

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