Australia are mulling the option of bringing back Peter Handscomb to bat in the middle-order for his ability to play spin, if Cameron Green does not recover in time for their series opener against India from February 9, head coach and selector Andrew McDonald indicated.
Recovering from a fractured finger, seam-bowling all-rounder Green is also named in the Test squad alongside Handscomb.
“He’s really important," McDonald was quoted saying in the Sydney Morning Herald.
“It’s been well documented over a period of time that his play against spin is excellent, and we feel as though he’s returned probably to what he was producing two or three years ago."
Both Handscomb and Green are undergoing batting practices on tailor-made “scarified" pitches in the sultry conditions of Bon Andrews Oval in North Sydney for them to experience match simulation ahead of the four-Test series that will determine their World Test Championship Final qualification.
Handscomb was also a member of their last tour to India in 2017. He also provides the utility value by doubling up as a wicketkeeper.
“Lots of runs in Shield cricket on those slower surfaces as well. He’s able to keep as well, so it gives us every option for Josh (Inglis) not to be there and if anything were to happen to Alex Carey, there’s flexibility there, but also in close fielder as well, bat pad, highly valued when you tour the subcontinent.
“We see him as an important right-hand option. Got a lot of left-handers, so very important right-hand option for us. If there were to be any late changes, or Cameron Green doesn’t make that first Test, we feel we have some good options.
“We value his (Green) batting first and foremost really, he’s a batter in our top six and we value that, his bowling is a bonus," McDonald added.
“Where he’s positioned at the moment, his biggest challenge is bowling. There is a lack of loading there, and it’s one of the key reasons around us getting into this camp and this mode early.
“He’s got to consult with the surgeon again tomorrow, and that’s about the four-week mark, where he should be given a tick of approval that that bone has healed.
“I don’t want to speak medical terms here, but basically after that, it should be just building him up and see how he goes each session.
“Building confidence is the main thing, setting him up to succeed in that first Test match, having a good enough time, that will be the critical question," the coach added.
Australia also had their injured paceman Mitchell Starc back in the training and he is likely to arrive late for the tour ahead of the second Test in Delhi.
McDonald also hailed North Sydney Oval curator Kieran Meurant, who prepared a pitch similar to the ones in India.
“We feel as though out there the surfaces we got are very similar to what we’re going to confront in India, which is very difficult to replicate," McDonald said.
“But we feel as though we’ve got close to that, so the ground staff have done a fantastic job."