Melbourne: Australia on Wednesday named uncapped paceman Chadd Sayers and recalled Jackson Bird to the Test squad to face New Zealand next month, as they look to reclaim the number one ranking. (Read more cricket stories here)
Selector Rod Marsh said while the batting line-up picked itself, it was a matter of choosing the best bowlers for the conditions expected in Wellington and Christchurch.
“It’s a matter of horses for courses; we think the conditions in New Zealand will suit Chadd,” Marsh said of the 28-year-old who has 145 first-class wickets at 24.82.
“He can bowl. He thoroughly deserves his selection,” Marsh said, adding that speed was not the only selection criteria.
Sayers is the only uncapped player in the 14-man squad, which also had a place for 29-year-old bowler Bird alongside leading paceman James Pattinson, Josh Hazlewood and Peter Siddle.
Marsh said both Sayers and Bird could “swing the ball and operate at a lively pace”.
“Our fast bowling depth is certainly being tested because of injury and retirement,” he said.
“But the positive part of that is it means there are opportunities for other players to stand up in domestic cricket and stake their claims.”
Feared paceman Mitchell Johnson, 34, quit international cricket in November, following Ryan Harris’s retirement, while Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins are sidelined by injury.
Pattinson and Siddle have also had injury concerns, with the former recovering from soreness in his left shin and the latter sidelined since December due to a troublesome ankle.
Marsh said he was hopeful Pattinson would recover in time for New Zealand, and Siddle was “on the verge of playing again”.
Australia dominated the West Indies in their most recent Test campaign at home, trouncing the tourists in the first two Tests before the final rain-affected match ended in a draw.
Steve Smith’s team faced stiffer competition from New Zealand in November, but clinched a 2-0 win in the three-match Test series.
“We know that New Zealand is going to come hard at us, that their players will want some form of payback for the Test series loss,” Marsh said.
The Kiwis also want to give retiring skipper Brendon McCullum a victorious send-off from internationals, he added.
Marsh said Australia were aware that a series win in New Zealand would lift them to the top spot in rankings.
“The fact that we can move back to the top of the ICC Rankings if we win the series is an added incentive for us,” he said.
“But the players will be hungry to do well and we are anticipating a tough but also, hopefully, a successful series.”
Australia play Tests against New Zealand in Wellington from February 12 and Christchurch from February 20.
The squad for three one-day internationals to be played in New Zealand ahead of the Tests has not yet been announced.
Australia: Steve Smith (capt), David Warner, Joe Burns, Usman Khawaja, Adam Voges, Mitchell Marsh, Peter Nevill, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon, Jackson Bird, Shaun Marsh, Chadd Sayers