Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting says he’s confused by the omission of Glenn Maxwell from not only Australia’s Test squad but also the preceding 'A' tour of India, saying he'd be "ropeable" if he was in the Victorian's shoes.
The absence of Maxwell was arguably the biggest surprise to come out of the touring party selected on Tuesday for the forthcoming two-Test series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates.
His recalled Victorian teammate Peter Siddle said on Tuesday that Maxwell had appeared confident in recent days of winning a berth in a squad that is without suspended batsmen Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft.
But uncapped pair Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head were both picked ahead of him, with chief selector Trevor Hohns praising their performances on the ongoing Australia A tour in India.
Maxwell's omission from that A tour had been viewed as a sign from selectors that they had faith in his ability in the subcontinent, where he scored his maiden Test century in Ranchi last year. Maxwell also said in July that he got “a lot of positive reinforcement” after selectors discussed his A squad omission with him.
Ponting, a close confidante of Maxwell who he has coached both in the Indian Premier League and national limited-overs sides this year, says the Victorian has been disadvantaged by not being given the chance to impress selectors on the A tour.
"If I was Maxi I'd be thinking, 'why didn't you give me the chance to actually go there (to India) and push my case to get myself into the team?'" Ponting told cricket.com.au.
"That's all a bit bizarre to me. If I was Maxi and I hadn't been given the chance to play for Australia A, I'd be ropeable.
"They didn't pick him on that Australia A tour and they've said they've seen him play enough in those conditions and knew what he could do.
"But if you think about it now, that must have actually meant they weren't going to pick him at all. He didn't even come into calculations for that Test tour.
"With Marnus and Travis Head going on that A tour, they gave them the opportunity to play in those conditions, they've done well and then they picked them (for the Test squad).
"I'm not sure what the message is, but it's a bit confusing to me.”
While selection chief Trevor Hohns says Maxwell remains on the "radar for Test cricket", head coach Justin Langer called on the 29-year-old to turn good starts into big hundreds in all forms of cricket.
"He’s a very good player and I was very impressed with him in England (on June's limited-overs tour), the way he goes about his business," Langer said in Perth.
"I’d love to see Maxi score more hundreds. And he and I have talked a lot in our brief time together about the art of concentration and watching the ball like a hawk.
"I’m sure if he does that more regularly, he will be making a lot more hundreds and be much more pickable for Test cricket."
With a day to play in the ongoing series between India and Australia's A teams, Head is the leading run-scorer with 206 runs at 51.50 and two half-centuries.
Labuschagne's Indian numbers aren't as impressive (97 runs at 24.25), but he was last summer's second-leading JLT Sheffield Shield run-scorer with 795 runs at 39.75 in the Bulls’ title-winning side.
Both bowl part-time spin, while Hohns specifically called out the Queenslander – a specialist short leg - as an "elite fielder".
Siddle, picked for his first Test squad since November 2016, said he was surprised to see Maxwell not selected alongside him.
"I was a little bit (surprised)," said Siddle. "Coming home and being around him yesterday (Monday), he was a little bit confident that he was going to be a part of this squad so he'll be very disappointed.
"I do feel for him, you always want your teammates to be in and around the squad and be a part of it with you. I know he'll be shattered.
"But I know one thing he'll do is work hard and get ready to push his case for the summer. It's hard, it's a whole new-look side and a lot of changes. And obviously the direction that they're going at the moment, with three spinners in there, it does make it hard to be a batting spinner in the side.
"So you can see where they're coming from. He's got plenty of opportunity now to get ready for the summer to push his case."
Ponting concedes Maxwell will never be an ultra-consistent batsman in the mould Langer wants, but believes his work ethic and match-winning capabilities are qualities that hold major value to the Test team.
The former Test skipper also said he hopes Maxwell doesn’t consider giving away his Test dream.
"He's someone who's desperate to play Test cricket for Australia, he wants to play any game of cricket he can for his country,” said Ponting.
"He might be sitting back now thinking what he has to do and hopefully the selectors have told him that. Hopefully they've been on the phone already and told him what he needs to do to get back in the team.
"If all they've said is that he needs go back to Shield cricket and score runs there, well, he's done that the last couple of years.
"He's always going to be that type of match-winning player. If he comes off every two or three or four games - that's the kind of player he's always going to be.
"He's got enough time and skill to be able to play more Test cricket for Australia."
Australia's Test squad: Tim Paine (c), Ashton Agar, Brendan Doggett, Aaron Finch, Travis Head, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Michael Neser, Matthew Renshaw, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc