If the selection at Nagpur was a shock, Australia did one better here in New Delhi, when they picked three spinners and just the one pacer – in the form of Pat Cummins. Not just that, Australia also decided to hand a Baggy Green to the Queenslander, Matthew Kuhnemann ahead of the experienced all-rounder Ashton Agar.
Australian selector Tony Dodemaide opened up on the selection, stating that Kuhnemann’s selection over Agar was purely on form, and added that the Western Australian’s form in the red-ball format isn’t well desired.
"His red-ball game is not quite where he wants it to be," Dodemaide said.
"Matt Kuhnemann has come over and impressed. He got a chance in Sri Lanka, albeit in limited-overs form, he's played well in domestic cricket this season and he's impressed us in the nets. We just feel his style at the moment is more suited to these conditions,” he had to add.
Had either of Cameron Green or Mitchell Starc been fit, there was a high possibility that the visitors would have played two pacers and two spinners, giving the bowling attack much more balance in terms of option. But given that neither have been deemed fit thus far, it forced the selector to go with the three-men spin attack combination.
"It's a bit unusual going the three spin and one quick," Dodemaide said. "We feel the pitch here, the conditions, we feel that spin will dominate the game once again and from what we understand this pitch has been used three times already this year and there's already substantial cracking in the areas where most of the game is going to be played. That's the reason for going for the three spinners. The fifth bowler is important too.
"Certainly if [Starc] was 100% we would have had a serious conversation about the bowling structure, about two [quicks] and two [spinners] as opposed to one [quick] and three [spinners]. Certainly, it's great balance if you've got that seam bowling without shortening the batting with Greeny being available. That's not the case and we deal with what you've got."
In Nagpur, Australia made the bold call of dropping Travis Head for the inclusion of Matt Renshaw, a move that didn’t quite take off. But Australia were back to the tried and tested inclusion of Head. But the Australian selector opened up on the selection, stating that the off-spin option that Head provides ultimately tilted it in the left-hander’s favour.
"Renners is really stiff," Dodemaide said. "There's no slight on him. He's very much a valued player in our team planning moving forward. He was quite stiff, particularly in the first innings [in Nagpur]. So he hasn't been dropped for those performances.
"The key thing where we see the difference this time around is that Heady does offer quite a valuable option as a fifth bowler and that's where we felt we were stretched in parts of the game in Nagpur and that fifth bowling option is something that we value, albeit another spinner. But we expect spin to dominate in any case."