White ball performances for Australia have again usurped those with a red or pink ball in the choosing of the Test team, as Jhye Richardson bowled himself into the breach left by an injury to Josh Hazlewood ahead of the seemingly clear back-up choice of Chris Tremain.
As Tremain was sending down 18 overs for the more-than-respectable figures of 1 for 32 in the Sri Lankans’ tour match against a Cricket Australia XI in Hobart on Friday, West Australian Richardson’s 1 for 27 from 10 ODI overs at the MCG – dismissing Virat Kohli and not conceding a boundary in the process – wowed the selectors sufficiently to choose him ahead of the Victorian.
“Jhye has had an impressive first half in his Sheffield Shield season and no-one could deny he has now continued that form in ODI matches for Australia,” national selector Trevor Hohns said. “We consider Jhye to be an ideal replacement in the squad for Josh.”
Though Richardson had performed strongly in the first half of the Sheffield Shield season and then followed up by claiming figures of 4 for 26 then 1 for 159 in the first two India one day games, Tremain has reason to wonder how he has managed to slip from being a member of the Test squad against India to surplus against Sri Lanka, despite taking more Shield wickets than Richardson in the same period.
Equally, the role required for Richardson is not entirely clear, for he has previously toured with the Test team, to South Africa last year, as a speedy back-up for Mitchell Starc rather than the taller and steadier Hazlewood. Peter Siddle, already part of the Test squad for the Brisbane and Canberra Tests, seems more likely to substitute for Hazlewood as the bowler of long spells. Tremain will go back to occupying a spot on the reserves bench for the Melbourne Renegades in the Big Bash League.
The stress fracture in Hazlewood’s back emerged in the week after the conclusion of the Test series against India, in which he bowled more deliveries than any other member of the Australian pace attack. In that sense, it is another win for India’s obdurate No. 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, who absorbed spell after spell from Hazlewood, Starc and Pat Cummins.
A back injury also kept Hazlewood out of the Test series against Pakistan in the UAE last year, and while Australia’s medical staff is confident he will be fit in time for the World Cup, his participation in any of the build-up ODIs in India or the UAE is now unlikely. The injury will also leave Australia without either of their Test vice-captains for the Sri Lanka series with Mitchell Marsh having been dropped – a new deputy for Tim Paine will be chosen and announced ahead of the Gabba Test.
“Josh has reported some back soreness over the last few days and scans have revealed a very early stage stress fracture in the same lower back area as his previous injury from last summer,” the team physiotherapist David Beakley said. “He will now begin a rehabilitation program and we are confident he will be available for selection ahead of the World Cup in the UK later this year.”
Richardson’s call-up followed six wickets in the three ODIs against India which included a match-winning haul of 4 for 26 in Sydney. He twice removed Kohli in the three matches. In the first half of the Sheffield Shield season for Western Australia, he took 27 wickets at 19.03 in five matches.
He was part of the Test squad for the tour of South Africa last year but this is his first inclusion since then, having been overlooked for the UAE tour. Although Tremain has been involved in the pink-ball tour match for the Cricket Australia XI against the Sri Lankans in Hobart, Hohns made it clear that Richardson’s one-day performances have helped sway the decision.
Similar logic was used to include Aaron Finch in Australia’s Test team following the bans on Steven Smith and David Warner. The experiment began soundly enough in the UAE against Pakistan, before Finch’s limitations were cruelly exposed by the likes of Jasprit Bumrah for India, leaving him still looking addled as captain of the ODI team.
Hazlewood’s injury adds to complications for the Australian set-up, after the banned duo of Smith and Warner both suffered from elbow problems in the Bangladesh Premier League, requiring surgery. “I am sure that will change things a bit with their injury. Steve has had surgery, David is having surgery so we will have to wait to see how their recovery goes,” Australia’s coach Justin Langer said.
“We haven’t come to any conclusions with that yet. There is a lot to be talked about. We have to weigh up between competitive games of cricket, probably in the IPL, and whether it’s worth them being there for the last few games [of the Pakistan ODI series].”