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Smith rules out Handscomb option

Australia's skipper weighs into 'keeper debate as team fly out to Bangladesh

While the impact of monsoonal rains that continue to wreak havoc on Bangladesh have left Australia's Test cricketers uncertain about conditions that await, captain Steve Smith has scotched suggestions that Peter Handscomb might be elevated to the role of specialist wicketkeeper.

Speaking to media in Darwin prior to Australia's 14-man squad arriving in Dhaka tomorrow, Smith replied flatly "probably not" when asked if it was likely that Handscomb – a batsman-keeper who took the gloves during this week's three-day practice match – would fill that role in the upcoming two-Test campaign.

The scenario was floated as a "realistic possibility" earlier this week by former Australia keeper Adam Gilchrist, if Smith and the national selectors felt the team would benefit from the inclusion of an additional spin bowler or specialist batter.

Quick Single: 'Keeping Handscomb could free up spot: Gilly

Gilchrist also pointed out that incumbent keeper Matthew Wade, who took over the position from Peter Nevill during the previous Australian summer, remained vital to Australia's plans and Smith confirmed that today when he indicated Wade was safe in his current role behind the stumps.

Even though Wade has posted just one score of 50-plus from 13 innings since returning to the Test team last November, with that score coming in the final match of Australia's 1-2 series to defeat in India earlier this year.

"Matty (Wade), in India, had some good innings without going on to get a big score," Smith said today in effectively ruling out the Handscomb option.

"His plans were really good and the way he plays spin and adapts is really good, so it would be great if we could have him go on and get a big score.

"It would be really good for his confidence and his keeping would benefit from that as well.

"He's been working really hard, he's got (newly appointed Bupa Support Team member) Brad Haddin on board now as a fielding coach and someone that he can work with really closely, and he's going to benefit from that for sure."

Smith also confirmed that deposed batter Usman Khawaja would likely return to the starting XI for the Bangladesh series at number three, with the captain reverting to his previous role at four in the batting order.

Quick Single: Khawaja earns strong backing from Smith

And that allrounder Glenn Maxwell was expected to retain his position at number six having scored his maiden Test century at Ranchi when recalled to the Test line-up during the India tour.

However, the make-up of the bowling attack will remain unclear until the Australians arrive in Dhaka to assess the impact of the ongoing deluge on pitch preparations and on plans for a two-day warm-up game in the capital, which appear to be in serious doubt due to the monsoonal weather.

Heavy flooding has hit many sections of Bangladesh's north, north-east and central interior in recent weeks with aid agency Red Crescent reporting yesterday that more than 50 people have been confirmed dead and almost four million affected by floodwaters.

While Dhaka and Chittagong, host cities for the two scheduled Tests, are located further south where the low-lying nation's vast river systems empty into the Bay of Bengal, the relentless rain has raised the prospect of under-prepared pitches at the Test venues.

As a result, Smith was reluctant to speculate on whether Australia would employ two specialist spinners as has been standard practice in sub-continental conditions, or consider utilising the fast bowling firepower of Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Jackson Bird.

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"If the weather is good we are likely to get wickets that are going to spin, so I daresay if that’s the case we would go with two spinners," Smith said today.

"But having said that, we could rock up and the wicket could be under-prepared and green and if that's the case then our mindset probably changes.

"We'll have to wait and see what conditions we've got in front of us and adapt from there.

"It would be great if we can get a tour match on a wicket that's suitable and similar to what we're likely to get against Bangladesh in the Test match (starting in Dhaka on August 27).

"So we'll wait and see when we arrive what the weather's like and what facilities are available for us to use."

If the prevailing conditions dictate the selection of two specialist spinners, Smith confirmed that left-arm orthodox spinner Ashton Agar was likely to win the nod ahead of uncapped leg spinner Mitchell Swepson.

Agar, who was not played at Test level since his debut against England during the 2013 Ashes tour, impressed with his bowling during the week-long Darwin training camp and is rated as "a package" by Smith given his batting talent and athletic fielding ability.

"He's improved a lot in the last couple of years he bowled really well up here this week and he's probably going to get his opportunity first up if that's the way we go," Smith said of Agar today.

"When he's consistent and hitting a good length he's going to be dangerous, I think that's the key to bowling spin, particularly in the sub-continent.

"He's gained a lot of confidence the last couple of years, he understands what he's trying to do now a lot more and if he can be consistent and keep hitting good lengths I'm sure he's going to be a big player for us.

"On this tour, and in the future as well."

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