Cricket Australia today announced the four-day and one-day Australia A squads to tour South Africa in July-August.
Plenty of big names were included in each touring party, but as there is with every squad selection, there were some questions raised.
1. Is Alex Carey Australia’s ‘keeper in waiting?
Alex Carey’s inclusion as the sole gloveman in the both the four-day and one-day squads was perhaps the biggest surprise from Friday’s Australia A squad announcement. There was no room for axed Test wicketkeeper Peter Nevill, who lost his spot in the Test team in November to Matthew Wade. With Wade now seemingly Australia’s first-choice stumper in all three formats, Carey’s record-breaking Sheffield Shield season appears to have been perfectly timed. The South Australian eclipsed the Chris Hartley and Wade Seccombe’s joint record for the most dismissals in a Shield summer behind the pegs for the Redbacks, and despite former Test wicketkeeper Brad Haddin reasserting his view that Nevill remains the country’s No.1 pure gloveman, Carey might now be the country's ‘keeper in waiting.
2. Is this Usman Khawaja's best chance for an Ashes recall?
The stylish left-hander was in fine touch last summer, passing 50 in all six Tests he played in, but found himself on the outer during Australia’s tour of India, making way for Shaun Marsh who’d also replaced him (and struck a century) in last year’s tour of Sri Lanka. Khawaja expressed his disappointment in April for not being named in Australia’s one-day international squad to play New Zealand earlier this year, and he’s now gone more than four months without a competitive game of cricket. While a perceived weakness against spin-bowling was the reason for his exclusion in India, Khawaja is likely to come right back into contention for next summer’s Ashes. The Queenslander has scored 1,085 runs at 77.50 on home soil over the past two summers and good performances with the bat – and as skipper – in South Africa could see him return to the top of Australia’s order for the first Test at the Gabba.
3. Glenn Maxwell’s rollercoster ride continues
Over the past 12 months, Glenn Maxwell has been both dropped and recalled to Australia’s ODI side, struck a T20 international century, been dropped from Victoria’s Sheffield Shield side and relegated to play club cricket, earnt a Test recall, posted his maiden Test century AND captained an Indian Premier League team for the first time. The 28-year-old might still be coming to grips with it all after he was named as Khawaja’s deputy for the four-day leg of the Australia A tour. As the Test side’s incumbent No.6, his inclusion in the ‘A’ side shouldn’t necessarily mean he’s on the outer, especially considering his superb Test ton in Ranchi. But it may indicate selectors want to see more from the talented allrounder in whites ahead of the Ashes.
4. Is Jack Wildermuth Australia's next allrounder? And what about James Faulkner and Marcus Stoinis?
The little-known Jack Wildermuth had a terrific Shield season for Queensland, scoring 518 runs and collecting 36 wickets. While the seam-bowling allrounder had been touted as a potential Test player, few would have predicted he’d be picked in front of the likes of James Faulkner and Marcus Stoinis in the Australia A four-day squad. Hilton Cartwright, who made his Test debut earlier this year, has been named in the four-day squad as well while Mitchell Marsh recovers from shoulder surgery. Stoinis may be feeling a little confused considering he was named as Marsh’s replacement in Australia’s Test squad in India for the Test tour. Faulkner meanwhile was a surprise omission from Cricket Australia’s contract offer list last month and looks to sit a few spots back in the Test allrounder pecking order.
5. Should Jon Holland count himself unlucky?
The Victorian left-arm spinner fended off questions on whether he believed he was close to a national call-up during the Sheffield Shield final in Alice Springs on the back of a player-of-the-match performance. After his first-innings seven-wicket haul, he took one more in SA’s second dig to claim his 50th scalp of the season to become the first spinner to reach that milestone in over a decade. Nonetheless, he was overlooked in favour of another left-arm tweaker Ashton Agar, who was selected in Australia’s last Test squad and has an extra string to his bow in his proven skill with the blade. With a proposed Test tour of Bangladesh still looming – though details of that series are still yet to be finalised – Holland could yet add to his two Test caps in the coming months.