Cricket Australia had named a full-strength squad for their first overseas Test tour in almost three years, with Ashton Agar the only addition from the extended group of players that won the Ashes.
Mitch Marsh, Josh Inglis and Mitchell Swepson have all been named in an 18-man squad for the historic three-Test tour of Pakistan, Australia’s first visit to the cricket-mad nation in nearly 25 years.
While squads for the limited-overs matches that will follow the Tests are yet to be named, the fact no Test players have pulled out is a vote of confidence for a tour that was only given the green light to proceed following a Cricket Australia Board meeting last week.
Thorough security assessments were conducted by officials for the first trip by an Australian team to Pakistan since the 2009 terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore.
“Clearly there is some anxiety about touring which I think is perfectly natural given an Australian team hasn’t toured Pakistan for almost 25 years,” Australian Cricketers’ Association chief Todd Greenberg told SEN on Monday.
“We may have one or two players who won’t be comfortable despite all of the advice and guidance that we provide. Along with Cricket Australia, we’ll need to respect those players and give them our full support if they decide not to make this tour.
“It’s a very important tour. The players completely understand our contribution to the global game and we don’t have an expectation that we can sit here and expect teams to tour our country and not contribute ourselves.”
Jhye Richardson is the only player of note to miss the trip as Australia manage the body of the 25-year-old fast bowler, who has struggled with injuries over his career.
Marcus Harris has held his spot in the squad after being squeezed out of his opening spot for the final match of the Ashes campaign following Usman Khawaja’s twin hundreds at the SCG.
Harris had won plaudits at the MCG for his Test-high 76 on a dicey pitch, while Pat Cummins has admitted fielding two 35-year-old openers (in Khawaja and David Warner) is not a sound long-term selection strategy.
There are no surprises among the other bowlers picked, with Ashes hero Scott Boland named alongside the big three quicks in Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, who returns from injury, while Michael Neser is also in.
Agar is one of three spin options along with Nathan Lyon and Swepson, with the trio earmarked for major roles over the next 18 months with tours of Sri Lanka and India (and potentially Bangladesh given a tour there was ‘postponed’ in 2020 and is still to be rescheduled) on the horizon.
But Australia have been warned that Pakistan is not a slow bowlers’ paradise.
“The general perception, which I think is wrong, is … there’s going to be two spinners in the game and it’s going to spin all the way through,” former Pakistan batter Bazid Khan told cricket.com.au last month.
“Pakistan is totally different to India. The ball is not going to spin straight away and mostly the wickets have been taken by the faster men rather than the spinners.”
Marsh and Inglis, both of whom rode the bench during the Ashes, provide cover in the seam-bowling allrounder and wicketkeeper positions currently occupied by incumbents Cameron Green and Alex Carey respectively.
The extended size of the squad reflects the difficulty of calling players up at short notice to an overseas tour should there be a last-minute injury, with Australia expected to be in some form of a bio-secure bubble for the tour.
“This squad covers for all scenarios including the conditions given it has been such a long time since Australia was last in Pakistan,” selection chief George Bailey said.
“With several subcontinent tours and a one-day World Cup in India on the near horizon this is a great first-up challenge for the group after the successful home Ashes series.
“It’s also a very historic tour given the length of time since an Australian side last toured Pakistan.”
Our 18-player Test squad for the Qantas tour of Pakistan! 🔒
The Test playing contingent and staff are due to depart for Pakistan later this month while white ball players, to be announced separately, will join mid-tour for the ODI and T20I matches. pic.twitter.com/7RM0HwKygq
— Cricket Australia (@CricketAus) February 7, 2022
Australia Test squad: Pat Cummins (c), Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, Steve Smith (vc), Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner
Qantas Australia Tour of Pakistan 2022:
March 4-8: First Test, Rawalpindi
March 12-16: Second Test, Karachi
March 21-25: Third Test, Lahore
March 29:First ODI, Rawalpindi
March 31: Second ODI, Rawalpindi
April 2: Third ODI, Rawalpindi
April 5: Only T20I, Rawalpindi