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Swepson ready for Bangladesh challenge

The Queenslander may be uncapped but remains unfazed by the task with a wealth of subcontinent experience already under the belt

He might be the only uncapped member of the 14-man Australia Test squad heading to Bangladesh later this month, but Mitchell Swepson boasts almost as much experience bowling on Asian pitches over the past year as his more decorated teammates.

Swepson last week became the final piece of Australia's selection puzzle to be slotted into place for the two-Test series in Bangladesh, the first Test series between the nations since Ricky Ponting led a weary outfit there on the back of an Australian summer and a gruelling South African campaign in 2006.

Swepson acknowledges that his late inclusion in the touring party – his call-up in place of fast bowler Mitchell Starc (who continues to recover from a foot fracture) was confirmed almost two months after the initial squad was named – suggests he will begin the three-week trip as a peripheral player.

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But even though fellow spinners Nathan Lyon, Ashton Agar and even all-rounder Glenn Maxwell notionally stand ahead of him in the selection queue, Swepson can point to the bevy of overs he's bowled on spin-friendly wickets as well as some influential patronage that he's fostered within the team.

The 23-year-old impressed Australia skipper Steve Smith early in last year's Test tour to Sri Lanka when Swepson, who was part of Cricket Australia's National Performance Squad that had been gaining sub-continent experience in Chennai, was enlisted to help Smith's men prepare for their opening game.

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Among a cast of net bowlers at Colombo's steamy P Sara Stadium - a troupe that included Lyon, left-arm spinner Steve O'Keefe and the most successful Test bowler of all time, Sri Lanka's Muthiah Muralidaran – Swepson paraded his skills before Australia's captain, and was duly noted.

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"I have to say I was impressed with quite a few of the young spinners, and Queensland leggie Mitchell Swepson caught my eye in the sessions where I saw him bowl," Smith wrote in his Sri Lanka tour blog for cricket.com.au.

"He puts a lot of revs on the ball and he was pretty accurate as well."

Swepson bowls in the nets during the tour of India // Getty
Swepson bowls in the nets during the tour of India // Getty

Australia were humiliated 0-3 by an unheralded Sri Lanka in the Tests that followed, and Swepson was then named in the next touring squad for the four-match series in India earlier this year.

A campaign that was identified as a landmark event for a team that had failed to win a Test on Asian soil for the preceding five years, and which began with a week-long training camp at the ICC Academy at Dubai.

Swepson's experience in Colombo seven months earlier meant he was not daunted by the prospect of mixing it on the training track with established Test batsmen the calibre of Smith, David Warner and Shaun Marsh.

We're better for Dubai experience: Swepson

When he did feel suddenly self-conscious, however, was sharing a dressing room and a team bus and regular strategy meetings with a group of senior players, most of whom he barely knew, and with whom he was embarking on one of Australia's defining Test tours of the recent past.

"I've done a bit of net bowling to the Aussies (Test players) before," Swepson told cricket.com.au this week when asked if he felt he belonged during the tour to India even though he did not play a Test.

"But I'd never got to sit side by side with them in the change room, so that was a big moment.

"Sitting next to some of them, it was a bit of a moment to realise just how big a stage it was and where I was exactly.

"It was pretty unreal, I had a ball.

"I got plenty of bowling done, even though I didn’t get a game (and) the whole tour was just a great experience in itself.

"Plenty of conversations with all the players there and I was a bit of a sponge and soaked it all in, so it was an awesome experience and I took a lot out of it."

Swepson was not part of Australia's XI for the solitary tour game in Mumbai that preceded the opening Test at Pune, and admits that by that stage of the tour he still felt as if he was something of an 'add-on' to the squad, much like he had with his fellow NPS members in Colombo.

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A result that ultimately eluded them as India claimed decisive wins at Bengaluru and in the final Test at Dharamsala, but an experience from which Swepson emerged a different character.

"At first I thought I was a youngster just coming along for the trip, I didn't actually feel part of the squad until that first Test," Swepson recalled of his India experience.

"After we won that, the boys made an effort to say that it was a whole squad effort and even though there was 11 blokes out (on the field) there's still a lot of blokes helping out.

"I guess we took that culture through the whole tour.

"The boys enjoyed themselves and we played some really good cricket, so that was when I felt part of the team."

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Swepson heads to Darwin later this week to join his fellow travellers to Bangladesh for another training camp, this time in northern Australian conditions that are expected to be markedly different from those they will encounter at Dhaka and Chittagong when they arrive on August 18.

Once again, the Queensland leggie would appear to be the third-in-line spinner behind Lyon and Agar.

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However, with the lessons he's gleaned in honing his craft on Asian practice pitches in Chennai and Colombo and Dubai and then back to India during the past year, he knows what is expected of him should the call-up finally arrive in Bangladesh.

"Obviously I'm the last one added to the squad so I'd think that the other two spinners are most likely to get a go ahead of me," he said.

"But you never know what can happen and what the pitches are going to be like."


Australia in Bangladesh 2017

Australia squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Ashton Agar, Jackson Bird, Hilton Cartwright, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, Matthew Renshaw, Mitchell Swepson, Matthew Wade.

Bangladesh squad (preliminary): Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Soumya Sarkar, Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib Al Hasan, Sabbir Rahman, Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, Mahmudullah Riyad, Liton Kumar Das, Mominul Haque, Mehedi Hasan, Taijul Islam, Mustafizur Rahman, Taskin Ahmed, Subhashish Roy, Kamrul Islam Rabbi, Rubel Hossain, Nurul Hasan, Sanjamul Islam, Mosaddek Hossain Saikat, Mohammad Saifuddin, Anamul Haque, Abul Hasan Raju, Al Amin Hossain, Nasir Hossain, Muktar Ali, Tanbir Haider, Saqlain Sajib, Shafiul Islam.


11-17 August Australia pre-tour training camp, Darwin


18 August Australia arrive


22-23 August Tour match,Fatullah


27-31 August First Test, Dhaka


4-8 September Second Test, Chittagong


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