In stark contrast to this season, 2022 shapes up as a gruelling cricketing schedule for Australia, travelling away to face Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and India all in the space of nine months.
Not to mention the potential of squeezing in last winters postponed tour of Bangladesh, which if rescheduled would see Australia feature in 11 Test matches in Asia.
Given the Aussies’ notorious struggles on the subcontinent in the last decade, it will be a massive challenge for a team still reeling from successive defeats to India at home.
Less than 12 months out from the first assignment, against Pakistan, several questions hang over the side.
One of the main considerations facing the selectors will be who partners Nathan Lyon as the second spinner?
If England’s tours of Sri Lanka and India have been anything to go by, two spinners are an absolute must with the potential for even three tweakers in the same XI given the recent pitches in India.
So who can Australia call on?
Despite having a poor home series against India, Lyon is still the number one spinner in the country.
The 100-Test veteran is one wicket shy of 400 scalps and has made a welcome return to form for NSW in Shield cricket in the past fortnight.
He also seems to have cracked the code of bowling on the subcontinent in recent tours, claiming 53 wickets at 22.26 in his last eight Asian Tests.
However, despite personally bowling well, he hasn’t featured in a series victory in Asia since his maiden tour of Sri Lanka in 2011.
When looking at who can help Lyon send the opposing batsmen into a spin, the options are sparse.
Australia’s go-to option in recent tours was Steve O’Keefe but the left-armer has since retired from first-class cricket.
Perhaps the selectors could look at other left-arm options in Ashton Agar or Jon Holland?
Agar last featured at Test level against Bangladesh in 2017 and claimed a respectable nine wickets at an average of 23.14.
Not a huge turner of the ball, Agar’s role will more than likely focus on putting the ball in good areas and keeping the run rate in check.
As Axar Patel has shown against England, you don’t need to be turning the ball square to have success on spinning pitches.
While Agar’s first-class record doesn’t jump off the page, his all-round abilities with both bat and ball make him very appealing.
Holland last featured in the UAE against Pakistan in 2018. At 33 years of age, he’s by no means out of contention however he hasn’t had the best of times in his short Test career thus far.
Going at over three and a half runs an over, Holland has struggled to take wickets and contain the run rate in his four Tests to date.
I would put a line through him.
Perhaps Australia’s best option comes in the form of Queensland leg spinner Mitchell Swepson.
Since carrying the drinks on Australia’s last Test tour to India in 2017, Swepson has come a long way.
The 27-year-old starred in the opening three rounds of this seasons Sheffield Shield, claiming 23 wickets at 21.17, including three five-wicket hauls.
More importantly, Swepson was able to bowl his side to victories over South Australia and Tasmania on the final day, a great sign in his development and maturity.
With 46 first-class games under his belt, the time is right for Swepson to don the baggy green next year.
Apart from the three tweakers mentioned above, it’s difficult to find any other established and consistent spinners in Australia’s first-class system.
Lloyd Pope sent excitement levels through the roof after his match-winning spell of 8-35 against England in the 2018 Under 19 World Cup, but the South Australian has struggled in the transition to Shield level since.
The 21-year-old averages over 72 with the red ball in first-class cricket, leaking over four runs an over. Whilst ability to give the ball a rip is undeniable, his control and temperament still have a way to go.
Next summer’s Shield season should give us a better indication of how Australia’s spin stocks are shaping up ahead of their Asian marathon, but at this stage, it’s hard to see anyone else jumping off the page and into the selector’s calculations.
Can Australia bury their subcontinental demons with Lyon, Swepson and Agar in the side? It’s their best chance.