Australia’s selectors will have the upcoming burst of subcontinent tours in the back of their minds as they mull whether to make it four debutants in as many Tests this summer at the SCG.
Alex Carey, Michael Neser and Scott Boland have started their Test careers with a bang during this summer’s Ashes, helping the hosts cruise to an unassailable 3-0 lead ahead of the Sydney match starting January 5.
Legspinner Mitchell Swepson, who has been on selectors’ radar since being part of a Test tour of India in 2017 at age 23, will soon find out if he joins the club.
Swepson has reason to feel cautious about his optimism.
The Queenslander arrived in Sydney for the year-opening Test in 2020 and 2021, knowing the city represented his best hope of a baggy green, but was restricted to running drinks on both occasions.
Swepson was part of Australia’s Twenty20 World Cup squad, meaning a sole game for Australia A has been his only first-class match this season.
Forecast showers have also clouded the 28-year-old’s hopes of joining Nathan Lyon in an XI that has been unsettled by Travis Head’s COVID-19 diagnosis and Josh Hazlewood’s bid to prove his fitness.
But the elevation of Swepson would follow the same template Australia used in 2017, when Steve O’Keefe was promoted at the SCG to give him a chance to work alongside Lyon before they toured the subcontinent.
Australia are set to tour Pakistan in March, while they are also expected to play Test series in Sri Lanka and India during the next 15 months.
Chairman of selectors George Bailey and captain Pat Cummins had two bob each way when recently discussing Swepson’s chances of playing in Sydney.
Cummins’ side will train at the SCG on Sunday, giving them a chance to inspect the pitch that will play a major role in deciding whether Swepson becomes Australia’s first frontline legspinner since Steve Smith’s debut series against Pakistan in 2010.
Bailey’s panel will be forced to make at least one change as Head continues to isolate in Melbourne, with Usman Khawaja set to get the nod.
Khawaja is hopeful of playing at the SCG, where he debuted against England in 2011, but also aware of Australia’s schedule beyond this series.
“Potentially I’ll have one game for Australia here,” the 35-year-old said.
“But I know it’s not going to be the be all, end all.
“Even if that doesn’t happen, I know there’s still a lot of cricket to come up.
“A lot of cricket on the subcontinent, which I feel I’m very suited to. I’m looking forward to hopefully being a part of (it).
“I still have the fire, spark.”
Head’s positive test prompted selectors to add Mitch Marsh, Nic Maddinson and Josh Inglis to Australia’s enlarged squad.
Khawaja is confident he could quickly find form in Sydney, having been restricted to batting in the nets for almost a month.
“It’s always nicer when you’re coming off games,” he said.
“It does make it a little bit different. You’re sort of out of sync, but it shouldn’t take too long.
“I’ve stayed as ready as I can on the sideline.”