National selector Trevor Hohns has hinted that Australia’s pace bowlers could be rotated during the series against South Africa after conceding they might have been better served doing so against India.
Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood – alongside Nathan Lyon and allrounder Cameron Green – play all four Tests and were unable to secure victory on the final day in Brisbane as India chased down 328 having toiled at the SCG just a few days earlier when the visitors earned a draw.
The first Test in Adelaide only lasted two-and-a-half days, with Australia sending down just 21.2 overs to bowl out India for 36 in the second innings, then India’s run chase at the MCG took 15.5 overs so the workloads had not been huge heading into the SCG. After failing to bowl India out in Sydney the pace attack were all given the approval of the medical staff to be good for the Gabba.
“In hindsight, [we] possibly could have been done,” Hohns said when asked about rotation. “Prior to finalising any team we check with medical people and even check with our players sometimes just to find out how they are doing.
“Sure, the games were pretty tight and close together, maybe we have to be a little more mindful of that going forward. However, in this instance all the bowlers had recovered sufficiently for the medicos to give them the thumbs up.
“We considered those three fast bowlers, who had performed very well over a long period of time, were the best ones for the job. Once we’d checked to make sure they’d recovered sufficiently we thought it was the best attack.
“Normally, and I think a lot of people would say the same thing, when we score enough runs we generally back that attack to bowl sides. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen on this occasion.”
The established pace trio are all part of the Test squad for the South Africa tour, and should that take place it will be three matches in less than a month during March, although there is a debate over whether Starc should keep his place on form.
James Pattinson, who has recovered from the rib injury which kept him out of the squad for the last two Tests against India, Sean Abbott, Michael Neser and Mark Steketee are the other frontline quicks.
Speaking in the immediate aftermath of the loss against India, head coach Justin Langer insisted the right decisions had been made.
“I would have been a brave man coming into this Gabba Test match and not selecting those four bowlers. I mean, would you have?” he told ABC Radio.
“Tell me who you wouldn’t have picked — Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc or Nathan Lyon? With the series on the line, which one wouldn’t I have picked? I would have picked them every single day.”
Pattinson was a member of the attack when Australia embraced rotation during the 2019 Ashes in England, although that was also somewhat conditions-based, while Neser has been ever-present around squads over the last two years.
Abbott was called up for the India series following outstanding numbers in the Sheffield Shield but only rejoined the squad for the final two Tests following a calf injury sustained playing for Australia A.
Steketee, the Queensland quick, has never previously been part of a full Australia squad. Though he only took seven wickets in three Sheffield Shield matches earlier this season he produced a superb spell to help secure a victory against South Australia at Glenelg and claimed 5 for 37 for Australia A against the Indians at Drummoyne Oval.
In terms of the India series, Hohns was confident the selection panel, which also includes Langer and George Bailey, had made the right calls throughout which included dropping Travis Head after two Tests to make way for Matthew Wade’s return to the middle order – he has now been left out for the South Africa tour – and sticking by Joe Burns for the start of the series.
“We’ve reviewed it among ourselves and I’m sure each one of us individually would have reflected on the performance A, of the team and B, whether there was anything we could have done any differently,” he said.
“And if I’m serious, I can’t think of anything else we probably could have done during that series, player wise. We had opportunities to win games in particular in Sydney and we didn’t take those opportunities.”
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.