Selection unclear for second Test as Australians sweat on Green’s fitness

Delhi: Australia were sweating over the fitness of all-rounder Cameron Green on Thursday night with the mystery over their XI revealing the uncertainty within the camp.

Skipper Pat Cummins knew the team he would lead onto the field on the eve of the Nagpur Test, but selectors were still mulling over numerous scenarios less than 24 hours before the second Test, which starts in Delhi on Friday. The lack of clarity over the team was at odds with head selector George Bailey’s preference of letting players know early, so they do not waste nervous energy worrying about selection.

Selection intrigue: Cameron Green.Credit:Getty Images

Green is the key figure in the selection intrigue that could result in left-arm spinner Matthew Kuhnemann becoming the second debutant in as many games, or even an improbable recall for Travis Head, a week after he was sensationally axed.

A fit Green as a second seam option would give Australia the flexibility to pick Kuhnemann as a third frontline spinner in an attack spearheaded by Cummins. It shapes as the visitors’ plan A, but Green’s limited preparation has raised doubts within the camp.

Green has hit top speed with his seamers but is still bothered by the finger he broke seven weeks ago in Melbourne. He was catching a softer ball until Wednesday, and expressed discomfort from the reverberations from his bat while hitting in the nets. Though his finger is structurally sound, his availability may well hinge on how much pain he can tolerate.

“Having a right-hander helps and him providing our fifth bowling option also helps, he’s a big player, it certainly helps the team function well from batting and bowling,” Cummins said.

“You have got to be able to perform as well, he’s still coming back from that injury, he’s only had a couple of sessions where he’s catching with a hard ball. He had a really good session yesterday. We will see how he pulls up.”

If Green is fit, likely at the expense of Matthew Renshaw in the middle order, Kuhnemann would be favourite to beat Ashton Agar for the third spin berth. A bolter who does not command a regular game for his state, Queenslander Kuhnemann has played just 13 first-class games for 35 wickets at 35 but underlines selectors’ desire for a left-armer who can slide straight on to the right-handers.

“They both had long sessions the last couple of days and looked awesome. If we wanted a third spinner variety we’d be comfortable with either of those two,” Cummins said.

Along with Green, left-arm speedster Mitchell Starc was seen as one of two aces up Australia’s sleeve, but he is no certainty to play – even if fit. If Green is available, Starc would most likely be given another week to prepare for the third Test.

Though Starc said he would be ready if picked, he also cast doubt over his recovery in declaring he was not as advanced as he had hoped. Scott Boland’s odds of retaining his place in the XI firm if Starc is unavailable.

“I think there’s a conversation. We’ll work that out by the end of today, I hope,” Cummins said of Starc. “He’s one of the world’s premier bowlers in these type of conditions. We’ll see.

“As I said, the wicket looks like it might turn a little bit. I thought last week with two pacers that attack functioned quite well, but I think whether it’s ‘Starcy’, another spinner, Scotty [Boland], variety in the attack does help.

“Starcy and Green had good sessions yesterday and we will assess them later on today. We don’t have a line through them yet.”

Cummins said Head was also in the frame after his bombshell omission for the series-opener.

The South Australian has struggled in the nets with the bat but has posed issues with his off-spin, which is at better than part-time standards in these conditions. If Green cannot play, Head could line up as a third spin option without affecting their batting depth.

“He’s absolutely part of the conversations for this Test,” Cummins said.

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