Australia have dropped vice-captain Mitch Marsh for the first Test against India in Adelaide, recalling Peter Handscomb in place of the oft-maligned allrounder.
Marsh had been under serious pressure to retain his spot after lean tours of South Africa and the UAE and skipper Tim Paine has confirmed the West Australian’s omission in favour of in-form Victorian batsman Handscomb.
Opener Marcus Harris will make his debut in the series-opener starting at Adelaide Oval on Thursday, becoming Australia’s 456th male Test cricketer.
But the omission of Marsh, who shares vice-captaincy duties with Josh Hazlewood, is the biggest surprise given Australia have typically preferred including an allrounder at home to provide support to their frontline quicks.
“Mitch Marsh hasn’t been as consistent as he would have liked and we would have liked,” Paine said. “We’re taking an opportunity to send him back to Shield cricket … knowing at some stage we’re probably going to need him.
“The wicket over the last few years here has given enough throughout the game [to not need an allrounder]. Going forward, we’ve got full faith in him being a Test allrounder.
“As this series wears on and you get to places where the wickets might be a little flatter and conditions a bit warmer …. that allrounder position becomes important.”
Paine noted offspinner Nathan Lyon had bowled “a mountain of overs” during Australia’s recent Test series against Pakistan and was likely to again carry a heavy workload, while Travis Head could also provide a part-time spin option.
Harris will form part of a new-look opening combination alongside Victorian teammate Aaron Finch, with Usman Khawaja returning to his preferred No 3 position.
“He’s an aggressive little player,” Paine said of Harris. “He can play his shots but he’s also really improved his defence. He’s come a long way as a batsman.”
Australia XI: Marcus Harris, Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Travis Head, Tim Paine (captain), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.