Ashes Q&A: Key selection questions answered
National selector Trevor Hohns provides an insight into how the men's Ashes squad will be picked
Sam Ferris in Canterbury
14 July 2019, 12:33 PM AEST
Following the announcement of the 25 players that will compete in the pivotal Australia versus Australia A contest in Southampton from July 23-26, national selector Trevor Hohns explained the thinking behind the selections and what to expect in the Ashes squad.
Below is Hohns answering a series of questions about the 25-man squad and the potential composition of Australia's Ashes squad.
Will Usman Khawaja play in Southampton?
"A little bit unsure of that at the moment. He's being assessed on a daily basis. We'll get more info on where he's at once everyone assembles in Southampton (on Thursday). It would be ideal preparation but we can't push that at the moment he's in the hands of the medicos and we'll take advice from them."
How did you go picking the 25?
"We're pretty lucky, aren't we? We do seem to have some reasonable depth these days and it's something that we've been striving for the last couple of years. We've seen some very good performances by several players during our summer at home, Test match-wise, and now most players have the opportunity, particularly with the Australia A program and this game coming up in Southampton to even push their claims further for selection in that Ashes squad. We've nominated 25 players, 25 doesn’t go into 16 so there's going to be some disappointments. All we can do is try to select a squad that we think can win the Ashes in English conditions. We've got all the history about what happened back home (last summer), we've got a little bit of what's going on here in England at the moment with Australia A but its more about the here and now and what's going to happen in the next month or so."
How did you land on a squad of 16 for the Ashes?
"I always ask for flexibility in numbers but at the moment we're heading towards 16 at this stage. Sixteen is historically been about the right number. On the odd occasion there might have been one more, doubtful there's been much less for an ashes tour. It's quite a hectic program with five Test matches pretty close together. Then we've got other players that will be included in the Ashes squad that will have had quite an intense World Cup program."
Cameron Bancroft returns to the Australian setup. What has he done to impress the selectors?
"Cameron was making a fair amount of headway when he played Test cricket last for Australia and that was in South Africa. It's been well documented that he was our leading run-scorer in South Africa. OK, what he's done is he's got on with business since he's been able to play again. He's playing with Durham in the County Championship, so he's doing everything he possibly can to get himself back into consideration and back into the Australian squad. He's scoring runs on a pretty regular basis so he has been included in that 25-man squad along with two others playing county cricket."
No Marcus Stoinis or Glenn Maxwell in the 25-man squad. Why not?
"Let's put it this way: We consider the 25 that did get chosen for this game as more in contention than those guys. It's unfortunate but that's just where we're at right here and now."
How intense are you expecting this game to be?
"We're seriously expecting and we're promoting this as a very serious game. Whilst it may appear that most of the Ashes squad picks itself I can honestly tell you there are still some positions that are up for grabs. It won't just all come down to this game either. We've got home history to go on, we've got what's going on here with Australia A but we need to make sure we're picking blokes that are performing in English conditions and that's why this Australia A tour was put in place some 12 months or more ago. It's also there to give players good preparation, in English conditions against the Dukes ball."
Are the selectors looking at taking a reserve spinner?
"Historically, most times there has been a reserve spinner and that's something we'll certainly have to be wary of and take into consideration. The main issue there is if anything was to happen to Nathan Lyon. Particularly on a game day or a couple of days out from a Test match it's probably necessary to have some cover. But it's one question we'll be asking ourselves."
Same with the wicketkeeper, pick a reserve?
"Same situation, basically."
How impressed have you been with Alex Carey after his World Cup campaign?
"He's proving himself to be a very smart cricketer. He played very well in the World Cup, of course. Batting-wise he was very, very good. He showed calmness in a lot of different situations. He's been very impressive. We've been very impressed with his glovework for some time now so he's progressing nicely."
How many of the core players have you picked and how many spots are up for grabs?
"There's probably 12 or 13 that you could write done right now. There's still spots up for grabs, there's no doubt about that."
How many fast bowlers are you looking to take to the Ashes?
"Probably five, I would think. That's normal for an Ashes tour (of) five Test matches. With them being close together as well, with five it also gives us the opportunity to manage our fast bowlers a little better, that's what we'll be attempting to do. I think these days our fast bowling group understand that. Sometimes it's physically difficult for them to back up when Test matches are close together."
How many times has the squad change in your mind over the past 12 months?
"A lot. If it was 12 months ago, we were thinking about 'who we were going to pick' now it's more 'who's going to miss out'. It's a nice situation. There is certainly going to be some disappointed players and rightly so but that's the position we're in right now with what consider to be reasonable depth. That's yet to be tested but we consider we've got some good depth, some good talent and plenty available for selection."
How are the returns of Steve Smith and David Warner going to impact the batting order?
"If we look back to our home summer when David and Steven weren't playing our boys did very well. So, add those two to the group and it means there will be some players squeezed. It's reasonable to assume they will be included – they're world-class players. That is going to make spots pretty tight when you add those two to the crop that played and performed reasonably well in Australia last summer."
Are you any closer to how you're going to pick the two teams for the Southampton game?
"We'll once again assess that when everyone assembles in Southampton. It will be a serious selection issue because it may well be we want to pit some players against other players. We'll work that out completely once Justin Langer gets to Southampton as the other selector here, and we’ll consult with Greg Chappell."
Tim Paine will be one captain so you'll have to pick another captain too.
"We do. We're lucky in that 25 we do have several players that have been in the leadership group, in the team environment for a little bit of time now. We did make it clear that those vice captains we did choose wasn't necessarily a pointer as to who the next captain is. We're lucky to have those there with a little bit of experience at managing players plus there's also a couple of players there that also captain their state. I don't think we'll have too much trouble coming up with another captain."
It's been 18 years since Australia have won an Ashes series in England, what gives you confidence this squad can do it?
"I think the preparation has been outstanding. The organisational work that has gone into this tour, not just for the Ashes but the World Cup then straight into the Ashes and Australia A as well, we're leaving no stone unturned in an attempt to win the Ashes in England. It's been a long time, there's been no doubt about that. I think we're in pretty good shape at the moment. England are a good side, there's no doubt about that but we're in a reasonable shape, particularly with Smith and Warner coming back. We're lucky right now to have our battery of fast bowlers fit and ready to go. So that's something that hasn't happened for a while when we've got a full complement of our major fast bowlers available."
2019 Qantas Ashes Tour of England
Tour match: Australia v Australia A, July 23-26
Tour match: Australians v Worcestershire, August 7-9
Second Test: August 14-18,Lord's
Third Test: August 22-26, Headingley
Tour match: Australians v Derbyshire, August 29-31
Fourth Test: September 4-8, Old Trafford
Fifth Test: September 12-16, The Oval