Ashton Agar in action for the Perth Scorchers. image: cricket.com.au

Brushing aside security concerns, Australia has selected a strong, spin bowling-heavy 18-man squad for the upcoming tour of Pakistan.

Brushing aside security concerns, Australia has selected a strong, spin bowling-heavy 18-man squad for the upcoming tour of Pakistan.

Exactly one month till the first test in Rawalpindi, Chairman of selectors George Bailey was on hand speaking to reporters after the announcement of the squad.

The tour presents plenty of unknowns for the squad, with Australia not having travelled to Pakistan for 24 years, many of the current team have not been exposed to the conditions faced by Pakistan pitches.

After security concerns continued to scupper tours of Pakistan, Bailey believes that both players and support staff alike are “excited” by the opportunity the tour presents.

“Pakistan have been incredibly keen to get international cricket back to their country and I certainly know our playing group and staff group are excited to get over there and play as well,” Bailey said.

With travel restrictions still front of mind an extended squad has been announced, Bailey hoping this will help to expose a larger group to new conditions to enhance their development.

“Playing away tours has become incredibly tough… that’s not just for Australia that’s for most touring test teams,

“Obviously with an 18-man squad, there’s a chance not everyone will play.  

“Hopefully through some training conditions, we will be able to expose [players] to some conditions and still get some skill development,” Bailey said.

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A return to the subcontinent has heralded an increase in specialist spinners selected, with off-spinning staple Nathan Lyon joined by both Michell Swepson and Ashton Agar in the squad.

Alongside the specialists, Bailey believes Australia also holds strong part-time spin options in Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, and Travis Head.

“We’ve got some great spin depth at the moment,” Bailey said.

“Marnus, Steve Smith, and Heady [Travis Head] can bowl some handy overs as well,”

Swepson was again around the national squad this past Ashes tour as he has for the past two summers, including being a part of the victorious T20 World Cup squad in the UAE. With three tours scheduled for the subcontinent in 2022, this Pakistan tour poses the first real opportunity he has to debut for his country in the longest format of the game. Ashton Agar will hope to gain selection and add to his current four test tally, all played away from home with the latest in Bangladesh in 2017.

Despite an apparent lack of red-ball practice, Bailey sees Ashton Agar playing a large role in the series with both the ball and bat.

“What we like about Ash is the incredible all-round skillset,” he said.

“What we’ve seen is that the way he bowls is pretty adaptable to red-ball cricket,”

With every squad announcement comes some unlucky non-selections, With some suggestions that both Victorian veteran Jon Holland and young Queenslander Matthew Kuhnemann were above Agar in the red-ball spin pecking order. An opinion Bailey disagrees with.

“No they weren’t for this one [tour],” Bailey said.

Looking ahead through the future tours program sees Australia have a heavy presence in the subcontinent over the next 18-months, the squad selected for this tour helps give an indication of who the Australian setup believes will be leading the charge for the foreseeable future.

Taking the reigns after the resignation of coach Justin Langer will be assistant Andrew McDonald, who Bailey hopes will transfer his wealth of knowledge onto the playing group.

“[He’s] had head coaching experience,” Bailey said.

“[He] knows what it’s like to lead an entire group,”

The first test gets underway on the eighth of March in Rawalpindi, with Australia hoping to build on the strong test results of the home test summer.

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