Australia’s selectors are expected to opt against wholesale changes for the upcoming Sri Lanka series, while some Test batsmen could potentially be rolled out in next week’s tour game against the same opposition.
Chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns, national coach Justin Langer and fellow selector Greg Chappell face a series of big calls as they mull how to fix Australia’s misfiring top six.
Squads for Australia’s two-Test series against Sri Lanka, which starts in Brisbane on January 24, and Sri Lanka’s only tour game, starting in Hobart on January 17, will be named on Wednesday.
Usman Khawaja, Marcus Harris, Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne are expected to be retained.
Mitch Marsh, Shaun Marsh and Peter Handscomb face more nervous waits, with Matthew Wade headlining the in-form options that selectors are likely to consider after a 2-1 series loss to India.
Selectors, who had a 14-man squad to pick from for the SCG Test against India, are likely to keep their options open with another big group.
Desperate to help players spend some time in the middle and produce bigger scores, selectors have given strong consideration to including some Test batsmen in the Cricket Australia (CA) XI that will face Sri Lanka.
Red-ball specialists currently running drinks in the Big Bash League, including former Test bowlers Jackson Bird and Joe Mennie plus highly-rated NSW batsman Kurtis Patterson, may also be drafted into the CA XI.
Such selections would buck recent tradition around the world.
CA and other home boards have generally proffered inexperienced teams for tour games, in the process ensuring the visitors’ tune-up is the antithesis of Test cricket.
Australia just went through a four-Test series at home without a centurion for the first time in history but the major reason for the floated shake-up is likely to be the fact the Sheffield Shield is currently on hold for the BBL.
The tour game, which will be played with a pink ball ahead of the Gabba day-night Test, could also help ensure some members of Australia’s XI have recent pink-ball match experience.
The fixture at Bellerive overlaps with an ODI at the MCG, suggesting one-day squad members Khawaja, Handscomb and the Marsh brothers won’t take part.
Patterson, yet to play for Sydney Thunder this season, was part of last year’s Australia A tour and scored an unbeaten century at Perth’s new stadium in the first half of the Shield season.
Australia are desperate to avoid their first Test loss to Sri Lanka at home, an unbeaten 13-match streak that started in 1988.
But there is also a bigger picture at play.
Selectors are already mulling what Australia’s top order will look like in England later this year, with Steve Smith and David Warner both fully expected to be part of their third Ashes tour.