Australian players could be forgiven for any confusion over the selection policy of the Test side.
This summer has been an interesting one for the Australian team and seen many changes. Six players made their debuts as the team went through a period of transition.
The first Test in Perth saw a side that was pretty similar in make-up to the one that had finished the previous Australian summer- a relatively settled side trying to reassert itself after the Sri Lanka debacle. Peter Siddle was picked as the third seamer ahead of Joe Mennie, his experience proving desirable.
Then Australia got beaten badly and Siddle injured, so Chadd Sayers was called into the squad as cover and not picked to play on a wicket that would have almost certainly favoured his swing bowling. Jackson Bird was also left out at his home ground and Mennie debuted, alongside Callum Ferguson, who along with Joe Burns had been called up as injury replacements for Shaun Marsh and Adam Voges. Mennie was close to playing in Perth so it was fair enough that he was next in line and also fair enough that he would get a chance to cement a place in the side.
Not so, as Australia were skittled cheaply in both innings and humiliated. Burns, Mennie and Ferguson were then jettisoned, alongside Peter Nevill and Mitch Marsh.
Of the five changes, three were debutants. Peter Handscomb and Matt Renshaw had been in hot form and were rightly given a chance. Nic Maddinson hadn’t and people couldn’t really see why he was picked at the expense of Ferguson, who had barely been given a chance to fail. Wade came in for Nevill to improve the batting and on account of his greater presence in the field while Bird was picked to replace Mennie, who found himself in the same position as Ferguson.
Luckily for the selectors, Renshaw and Handscomb showed they were up to the challenge and made good starts to their Test careers, so naturally the focus was that the selectors had done a good job. Sure, they had picked two promising, in-form players and they duly delivered. However, Maddinson was never able to justify his selection and the act of picking him on a hunch backfired, or at least it would’ve if Australia had lost games.
Still, Australia had already wrapped up the Pakistan series after two matches, so Maddinson was then dropped for Hilton Cartwright, a batting allrounder who nobody had heard of weeks previously. He did nothing wrong in his debut, scoring 37 with the bat and delivering four tidy enough overs, but was then overlooked for selection to tour India.
The selection policy has been confusing. On one hand, the message is that scoring runs or taking wickets in the Sheffield Shield will lead to selection, but on the other hand the selectors might just pick you because they have a good feeling. Then they might give you a chance to prove yourself, but they might only give you a game to show that you’re Test quality.
Six players made their debuts, two showed promise, while the other four will be left wondering if they'll ever get another chance.