Peter Handscomb could break a four-year Test drought in the opening match of Australia’s tour of India if Cameron Green fails to overcome his fractured finger in time.
Coach Andrew McDonald spoke highly of Handscomb’s credentials as Australia prepared for the tour on a roughened pitch in North Sydney over the weekend.
McDonald suggested Green could be picked to only bat in the first match in Nagpur, set to begin on February 9, but indicated another option was Handscomb returning for his first Test since January 2019.
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“He’s really important,” McDonald said of Handscomb.
“It’s been well documented over a period of time that his play against spin is excellent, and we feel as though he’s returned probably to what he was producing two or three years ago.
“Lots of runs in Shield cricket on those slower surfaces, as well.
“He’s able to keep, as well, so it gives us every option for Josh (Inglis) not to be there. And if anything were to happen to Alex Carey there’s flexibility there.
“But also in-close fielder, as well, bat pad — highly valued when you tour the subcontinent.
“We see him as an important right-hand option. Got a lot of left-handers, so very important right-hand option for us.
“If there were to be any late changes, or Cameron Green doesn’t make that first Test, we feel we have some good options.”
Green’s right hand was smashed by an Anrich Nortje delivery in the MCG Test.
The rising all-rounder left the field with blood pouring from his finger on day one, but he returned on day three to face another 157 deliveries as he made an unbeaten 51.
Green and Handscomb both spent time batting on Australia’s camp in North Sydney, for which the pitches were scuffed up so they were as similar as possible to Indian wickets.
“We value his batting first and foremost, really,” McDonald said of Green.
“He’s a batter in our top six and we value that.
“His bowling is a bonus.
“Where he’s positioned at the moment, his biggest challenge is bowling. There is a lack of loading there, and it’s one of the key reasons around us getting into this camp and this mode early.
“He’s got to consult with the surgeon again (on Monday), and that’s about the four-week mark, where he should be given a tick of approval that that bone has healed. I don’t want to speak medical terms here, but basically after that it should be just building him up and see how he goes each session.
“Building confidence is the main thing, setting him up to succeed in that first Test match, having a good enough time. That will be the critical question.″
The Australians haven’t toured India since 2017, when they lost a Test series 2-1 under the captaincy of Steve Smith.
They haven’t won a Test series in the country since 2004, when Adam Gilchrist skippered his side to a 2-1 triumph.
Australia has shaken up its preparation for this tour, opting against playing tour matches during the lead-up to the Test series.
McDonald wants his side to land, play and depart in a brief period of time, because he believes lengthy stints away from home on previous tours hampered the team’s performance.
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