Australian selectors have picked four frontline spinners, including Victorian rising star Todd Murphy, to tour India as captain Pat Cummins’ men look for a first series win there since 2004.
Victorian captain Peter Handscomb was also named in the 18-man group along with resurrected Test batter Matthew Renshaw.
Opener Marcus Harris was left out despite spending all summer with the Australian team, the only member of the squad from the victorious series win over South Africa not going to India, with fast bowler Lance Morris named.
Injured stars Mitchell Starc and Cameron Green have been included, but Starc been ruled out of the first Test.
The spin-heavy squad includes Murphy, Ashton Agar, despite a wicket-less Test return in Sydney, and leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson, with one to partner first-choice spinner Nathan Lyon.
National selection chief George Bailey said the team was ready for the challenge of beating India in India and backed Agar’s left-arm spin to play a crucial role.
“After a successful home summer, the squad is excited by the challenge a Test tour to the subcontinent provides,” Bailey said.
“We have selected a squad that provides the depth and flexibility required to adapt depending on the conditions we may encounter.”
“Ashton Agar continues to impress following his comeback in Sydney and we believe left-arm finger spin will play an important role in Indian conditions.”
Bailey also praised uncapped Murphy, who was impressive on last year‘s Australia A tour of Sri Lanka and has taken 14 wickets at an average of 17.71 in the Sheffield Shield this summer.
“Todd Murphy has progressed quickly having impressed in domestic cricket and recently with Australia A,” Bailey said.
‘With those performances Todd has emerged as a strong spin option
“Selection in this squad also provides another opportunity to spend time alongside Nathan Lyon and assistant coach Daniel Vettori in India which will be invaluable to his development.”
Bailey also said the squad could be “reviewed” with the Shield season to recommence after the Big Bash finishes.
While part-timers including Travis Head could help fill the spin load, Marnus Labuschagne said India was a place for specialists.
“I can be an impact bowler, bowl three, four, five overs at a time, but I can’t bowl 10 or 11 overs straight as a part-time leg-spinner and be super accurate,” he said.
“That’s the key element. Me and Travis (Head) and Smudge (Steve Smith) can pick up some overs, but what’s really important is the two main spinners.”
In season 2 of Amazon Original’s “The Test” documentary, Cummins said his men aimed to reach the benchmark of the last Australian team to win in India in 2004.
“They won in India, they won in England,” he said.
“That Test team, no matter where they (went) in the world, they could adapt.
“That‘s the gold standard. That’s what you aspire to.”
Australia will play four Tests in India beginning on February 9 in Nagpur
AUSTRALIAN SQUAD: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon, Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Matthew Renshaw, Peter Handscomb, Mitchell Swepson, Todd Murphy, Lance Morris.