A call for “patience” from Australia selectors for the radically changed squad that emerged from the Hobart wreckage struck a discordant note for some former players after Callum Ferguson and Joe Mennie were barely given a chance to impress.
Australia’s innings and 80-run humiliation at Bellerive Oval, the side’s fifth defeat in succession, prompted clarion calls for action and the selectors responded by dropping five players and naming four uncapped replacements in their 12-man squad for the series finale in Adelaide.
Openers Matt Renshaw and Nic Maddinson, wicketkeeper-batsman Peter Handscomb and seamer Chadd Sayers are all in with a chance to make their Test debuts against a South Africa side determined to sweep the series 3-0 at Adelaide Oval.
The scale of the clean out, unseen since Australia’s doldrums in the mid-1980s, has proven polarising.
Two of the casualties, middle order batsman Ferguson and fast bowler Mennie, have been denied the chance to make amends in a second Test at their home ground in South Australia.
Ferguson ran himself out in the first innings for three and scored one in Hobart, while Mennie took one wicket for 85 runs.
“It’s a very tough call on players like Ferguson and Joe Mennie who were just given one opportunity,” former Test batsman Mike Hussey said.
“I thought Joe Mennie bowled quite well… He’s well within his right to feel a little aggrieved.”
Former fast bowler Brett Lee also sympathised with 32-year-old Ferguson, who he felt would join Australia’s considerable ranks of ‘one-Test wonders’.
“Poor Callum Ferguson. One game, he’s played one Test, everyone else has missed out (in Hobart),” Lee told Brisbane radio station Triple M.
“It’s not like he’s made a serious error in judgment in not getting runs but you’ve got to feel for him and also for Mennie.”
Wicketkeeper Peter Nevill’s omission has also proved contentious, with his replacement Matthew Wade seemingly endorsed more for his abrasiveness than his glove-work or recent batting form in domestic cricket.
“He’s obviously seen as a tough competitor and that is what we’re looking for in our players now,” selector Trevor Hohns said of 28-year-old Wade, who played the last of his 12 Tests away to India in 2013.
In anointing 20-year-old Renshaw, 24-year-old Maddinson and 25-year-old Handscomb, selectors have satisfied a number of pundits who complained that promising talents were being stifled by a perceived preference for late-bloomers like Adam Voges and the retired Chris Rogers.
But like Ferguson and opener Joe Burns, who was dropped in Sri Lanka, recalled for one Test in Hobart and promptly dumped again for Adelaide, the trio face enormous pressure slotting into Steve Smith’s shell-shocked team.
Their failures and a series whitewash would add further pressure on the selectors panel, which is itself in flux after the prompt resignation of chairman Rod Marsh last week.