India A v Australia A - Four-Day
New spin for Holland's subcontinent return
Two years on from his Test debut in Sri Lanka, Victorian hopes to push case for a recall on Australia A tour of India
16 July 2018, 05:02 PM AEST
In a way, Jon Holland has been waiting more than two years for this.
Australia A's tour of India in early September will be the Victorian's first trip to the subcontinent since his only taste of international cricket to date, Australia's 2016 campaign in Sri Lanka that holds both good and bad memories.
The good came in the form of a surprise late call-up - followed by a panicked renewal of a recently-expired passport - and a debut Test in Galle, the bad a 0-3 series thumping and a return of five wickets at 55 apiece that led to an exile from the national team that continues to this day.
Speaking weeks after returning home from that tour, Holland had lamented his rushed preparation for what was his maiden red-ball campaign on the subcontinent and was emphatic that he would give a much better account of himself if given a chance on future tours of Asia.
The chance has yet to come.
Controversially overlooked for trips to India and Bangladesh last year, the 31-year-old now has half an eye on Australia's two-Test tour of the UAE in October, their only Asian adventure until 2020 that looms as one of his final genuine opportunities to pull on the Baggy Green again.
But he says if he's going to prove a point to anyone with a strong showing on the A tour to India, it's himself.
"The way the series went (in Sri Lanka) was disappointing," he told cricket.com.au. "It's always hard when you're not winning and not performing.
"But I don't think I've got a point to prove to anyone else. It's just always good to work hard and challenge yourself by going over there and seeing if you can perform in those conditions against good players.
"It's going to be good to get over there (to India) and try and work out some plans that were brought up on the Sri Lankan trip and see if they work."
Joining Holland for the A team's two first-class games in the city of Vizag will be fellow spinners Ashton Agar and Mitchell Swepson, who were both picked ahead of the Victorian for the Asian tours last year and loom as his main rivals to be one of Nathan Lyon's spin allies in the UAE.
Having been perplexed by his shock inclusion for the now infamous tour of South Africa earlier this year, less than a month after Agar was the man called upon for the Sydney Ashes Test, Holland says he was able to gain some clarity from national selector Trevor Hohns.
And while Agar seemingly has the inside running to be the second spinner alongside Lyon, the likelihood that conditions in the UAE will be tailored to blunt the impact of Australia's star quicks brings the prospect of a third spinner - and Holland - into the frame.
"Getting picked for South Africa was probably the thing I'd expected the least," he said. "But I had a good chat with 'Cracker' (Hohns) after the tour and he explained to me where I sat so it's all very clear to me now.
"He said if they wanted a specialist spin role, (I'm) the next one behind Nathan. But if they're looking for an all-round package depending on conditions and team make-up, Ashton is ahead of me. Which is fair enough.
"Ashton's a very talented cricketer and is improving all the time. It really just depends on what the selectors are after, if they're looking for that specialist spinner or an all-round package."
As unlikely as a three-pronged spin attack may seem, the success the strategy yielded against Bangladesh in Chittagong last year - when Australia picked just a single recognised fast bowler (Pat Cummins) for the first time in four decades and the spin trio of Lyon, Agar and Steve O'Keefe spun them to a series-saving win - gives Holland an outside chance.
Especially given Australia's big three quicks are all currently sidelined by injury, and selectors could be reluctant to overwork them in unhelpful conditions just weeks before the start of a Test summer that's highlighted by a showdown with world No.1 India.
But having previously expressed his displeasure at some non-selections, Holland is philosophical about what will be on the line in India, where he'll get his chance - finally - to continue what he started two years ago.
"Obviously (Test selection) is going to be in the back of your mind," he said. "Playing for Australia is always the pinnacle and I'd love another opportunity.
"Nathan's obviously done a great job so the opportunities are pretty limited, particularly when they're playing in Australia.
"The opportunity will be there if I bowl well, but it's not the end of the world if I don't get another opportunity. I really enjoy playing for Victoria and I've had a great career.
"If it doesn't come about, it doesn't come about."
Australia A Tour of India
Australia A four-day squad: Mitchell Marsh (c), Alex Carey (vc), Ashton Agar, Brendan Doggett, Peter Handscomb, Travis Head, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Michael Neser, Joel Paris, Kurtis Patterson, Matthew Renshaw, Mitch Swepson, Chris Tremain
Australia A one-day squad: Travis Head (c), Alex Carey (vc), Ashton Agar, Peter Handscomb, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Michael Neser, Matthew Renshaw, Jhye Richardson, D’Arcy Short, Billy Stanlake, Mitch Swepson, Chris Tremain, Jack Wildermuth
One-day fixtures in Vijayawada
17 August v India A
19 August v South Africa A
23 August v India A
25 August v South Africa A
29 August – Tri-Series Final
Four-day fixtures in Vizag
2 – 5 September v India A
8 – 11 September v India A