Australia have called up wicketkeeper Tim Paine for the first time in seven years in a selection shocker while dropping opening batsman Matt Renshaw in a surprising Ashes squad for the series against England. The Ashes begins on November 23 in Brisbane.
The 32-year-old Paine, who played the last of his four Tests in October 2010, has been included in a 13-man squad for the opening two Tests, replacing the out-of-form Matthew Wade and denying Peter Nevill a spot.
Strangely, Paine has not been considered the first-choice wicketkeeper for his state side Tasmania with Wade donning the gloves there in the Sheffield Shield. He did make a decent show of himself by scoring a half-century against England and keeping for Cricket Australia XI in a tour match in Adelaide.
“Tim was identified as an international player a long time ago and has always been renowned as a very good gloveman, also performing well for us whenever he has represented Australia in any format,” said selector Trevor Hohns. “His batting form in recent outings for the Cricket Australia XI and Tasmania has been good.”
Pundits were quick to query the decision. “(If) he’s meant to be the best keeper then you’d think at least he’d make the Tasmania one,” said former Test bowler Brendon Julian. “I just don’t get where that’s come from, that’s just a left-field selection.”
Uncapped Western Australian Cameron Bancroft comes in as a replacement for Renshaw, who has played 10 Tests, after scoring plenty of runs in the Sheffield Shield ahead of the Ashes.
Renshaw’s absence comes as bit of a surprise for many with the 21-year-old not being rewarded for his solid performances in the last home summer. However, one could question his supposed selection given his current poor form with Queensland. He smashed 184 runs against Pakistan in his last Test on home soil at the Sydney Cricket Ground in January.
Meanwhile, Bancroft scored an unbeaten 228 runs against South Australia earlier this week and was unlucky to miss out on making his Test debut in 2015 when the tour to Bangladesh was cancelled due to security reasons.
“We didn’t really have anyone jumping out demanding selection except for Cameron Bancroft,” Hohns told reporters in Brisbane on Friday, describing the squad as one of the most difficult his panel had ever picked.
Another surprise selection by the Australian selectors came in the form of Shaun Marsh while leaving out incumbent number six Glenn Maxwell. The injury-prone Marsh, 34, has been rewarded for his decent form for Western Australia. However, he averages a modest 36 in Test matches while never managing to hold on to his place despite multiple chances his 2011 debut against Sri Lanka.
Jackson Bird and the uncapped Chadd Sayers have been selected as the back-up options to the formidable pace trio of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins. With little time between the Gabba opening Test and the second Test in Adelaide to be played under lights, Sayers could make his debut on home wicket to give one of the seamers some rest.
“It’s no secret that Chadd’s inclusion is with a view to the Adelaide test match,” said Hohns. “I’m not suggesting for one moment that he’ll be already included (in the match).”
Squad: Steve Smith (captain), David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Jackson Bird, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine (wicketkeeper), Chadd Sayers, Mitchell Starc