Sydney: Legspinner Fawad Ahmed, batsman Adam Voges and wicketkeeper Peter Nevill were all called up by Australia Tuesday for their upcoming tour of the West Indies and the Ashes campaign in England.
But there was no room in the 17-man squad for allrounders James Faulkner and Glenn Maxwell, who were a potent part of Australia's one-day World Cup winning side. Joe Burns was also overlooked, despite scoring two half-centuries in Australia's last Test, against India in January, while paceman James Pattinson missed out with a hamstring injury, opening the door once again for Peter Siddle.
Australia play two Tests in the West Indies from June 5, with their five-Test Ashes series starting in England on July 8. Pakistan-born Ahmed, who sought asylum in Australia in 2010, got the nod ahead of Ashton Agar as the second spinner behind Nathan Lyon after a stellar Sheffield Shield season in which he took 48 wickets.
"It's been an amazing 2015 for me," said Ahmed, 33, who was granted citizenship in 2013 and played three one-day internationals and two T20 internationals during Australia's tour of England and Scotland later that year. "I've bowled with a big heart and a big chest in every situation." Voges won his place on the plane for similar reasons, with the 35-year-old Western Australian captain smashing 1,358 Shield runs to be the season's highest scorer and player of the year with an average of 104.46.
New South Wales keeper Nevill was picked as Brad Haddin's understudy, preferred to Matthew Wade. National selector Rod Marsh said the Test team had performed very well in recent times, and the big challenge was to maintain the form away from home. "We believe this squad has sufficient depth for these important Test matches against the West Indies and England and will give us the best chance of success," he said.
- 'Sensational seasons' -
Marsh said selectors could not ignore Ahmed and Voges after "sensational seasons" at domestic level. "They thoroughly deserve their call-up and the opportunity to be a part of this squad. We believe that both can play important roles in the side if required," he said.
"Adam had one of the great seasons in Sheffield Shield history. He is an experienced player and quality character who will add talent and leadership to the touring party. "Fawad has worked incredibly hard on his game and has demonstrated throughout the season that he can be a consistent wicket taker. "Peter Nevill has been on our radar for some time and deserves his opportunity through weight of runs and performances behind the stumps," he added.
Fast bowler Ryan Harris was included in the squad, but will only play the Ashes series, remaining in Australia throughout the West Indies tour for the birth of his first child. While Faulkner and Maxwell missed out, selector Marsh cast an air of mystery over his plans for them.
"We've got hopeful plans that I can't reveal right now for Jimmy Faulkner. He'll be right," he told reporters, adding of Maxwell: "It's a tragedy we can't play him in every game at the moment. But watch this space." Ahmed and Voges were selected despite missing out on Cricket Australia contracts for the 2015/16 season. CA announced on Tuesday it had contracted 19 players, one more than last season.
Emerging fast bowlers Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood and allrounder Mitchell Marsh won contracts. Dropping off the list were Siddle, despite being named for the Test tours, and deceased batsman Phillip Hughes. Australia depart for the West Indies on May 19.
Michael Clarke (capt), Steve Smith, Fawad Ahmed, Brad Haddin, Ryan Harris (Ashes only), Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Peter Nevill, Chris Rogers, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Adam Voges, David Warner, Shane Watson.