1676613013 Head recalled for bowling ability Matt Kuhnemann skips struggling Ashton

Head recalled for bowling ability, Matt Kuhnemann skips struggling Ashton Agar

Australia international Tony Dodemaide has defended the presence of injured players in the squad

Alex Malcolm17. February 2023 • 1 hour ago

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Australia’s selectors have reversed their decision to skip Travis Head in Nagpur by picking him for his bowling skills in Delhi. Matthew Kuhnemann has also passed Ashton Agar to make his Test debut as Australia selected three specialized spinners and one fast bowler for the first time since 2017, with Cameron Green and Mitchell Starc both being ruled unfit.

Australia’s touring selector Tony Dodemaide spoke to the media just before the draw in Delhi to explain the selectors’ decision making. After Head was left out as a horses-for-courses selection at Nagpur due to his poor batting record in the subcontinent and his struggles at training camp in Bengaluru, Dodemaide explained that Head had been included in Delhi at the expense of Matt Renshaw because Australia had that Feeling they were missing a fifth bowling option in Nagpur.

“Renners is really stiff,” said Dodemaide. “There is no contempt for him. He’s a very valued player in our forward planning squad. He was pretty stiff, especially in the first innings [in Nagpur]. So he wasn’t dropped for those performances.

“The main thing where we’re seeing the difference this time is Heady gives a pretty valuable option as a fifth bowler and that’s where we felt like we were overwhelmed in parts of the game at Nagpur and that fifth bowling option is something , which we appreciate, albeit a different weirdo. But we definitely expect spin to dominate.”

Ashton Agar struggles for form

Kuhnemann’s test debut took place under exceptional circumstances. Last week he played his first top-flight game since October for Queensland at the MCG in Melbourne after biding out his stint as the second Queensland spinner behind Mitchell Swepson in the Sheffield Shield side.

Kuhnemann was not included in the India tour’s first squad, but flew to Delhi on Sunday as Swepson went home for the birth of his first child. Agar was selected as Australia’s second spinner in the XI at Sydney in the last home test before the India tour and as the preferred left arm orthodox spinner in the touring group.

But Agar’s performances in Sydney against South Africa and at the Bengaluru training camp meant he was not a viable option for the first or second Test.

“His red ball game isn’t quite what he wants it to be,” Dodemaide said. “Matt Kuhnemann came over and impressed. He got a chance in Sri Lanka albeit in limited form, he’s played well in domestic cricket this season and has impressed us in the nets. We just think his style is more suited to these conditions at the moment.”

Matthew Kuhnemann played 13 top-flight games before making his Test debut at Delhi Getty Images

Kuhnemann made a similarly shocking ODI debut in Sri Lanka last year when Adam Zampa missed the tour on paternity leave.

Australia have opted not to pick a second bowler for the first time since Chittagong in 2017, when Pat Cummins was the only fast bowler alongside Agar, Nathan Lyon and Steve O’Keefe, despite doing so at the medium pace of Hilton Cartwright on that occasion .

Boland was arguably Australia’s second-best bowler at Nagpur behind Todd Murphy, but he bowled just 17 overs for the Test. Australia’s selectors believe conditions in Delhi are quickly exceeding requirements.

“It’s a bit unusual to do three spins and one fast,” Dodemaide said. “We feel the pitch here, the conditions, we think spin will once again dominate the game and as far as we know this pitch has already been used three times this year and there are already significant cracks in the areas where most of the game takes place playing. That’s the reason for the three weirdos. The fifth bowler is also important.

“We don’t have Cam’s seam bowling option on the table yet. We are very confident and hope he continues to improve and we expect him to be available for the third test in Indore. That’s the context for choosing one.”

Cameron Green and Mitchell Starc are hoping for Indore

Dodemaide defended the selection’s decision to bring three players onto the tour who are not fit enough to be selected in the first two Tests. Josh Hazlewood is still struggling with an Achilles problem while Green and Starc have been pushing to be fit for the second Test, but both haven’t been quite right with their respective finger injuries despite Wednesday’s practice session.

“We brought them here with the expectation that they would be available,” said Dodemaide. “Starcy and Greeny didn’t quite come up with this one. We assume they will be online for the third.

“Sure if [Starc] At 100% we would have had a serious conversation about bowling structure, about two [quicks] and two [spinners] as opposed to one [quick] and three [spinners]. Certainly having that seam bowling without shortening the hitting when greeny is available is a great balance. That is not the case and we take care of what you have.

“Cam has been going through his return to play stuff. He didn’t really complete everything he was supposed to do. He still hasn’t faced fast bowlers. He didn’t catch much either. He’s been training for this for quite a long time. But there’s just enough reaction and uneasiness that it’s just not done.

Alex Malcolm is Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo