Former Australian skipper Ricky Ponting expressed that he was surprised over the Aussie selectors overlooking Mitchell Marsh for the Ashes, and claimed that, on current form, Marsh can walk into the starting XI without any Test practice under his belt.
One of Australia’s T20 World Cup heroes, Marsh was in line to play Test cricket in the summer of 2019, but a freak accident saw him miss out on the entire season, post which he has exclusively played white-ball cricket.
Ponting claimed that he expected Marsh to be picked in the squad for the No.5/No.6 role, and insisted that things might have been different for the all-rounder had he not broken his hand two years ago.
"I think he (Mitchell Marsh) can come straight from T20 cricket now that he's as confident as he is in his own game," Ponting told cricket.com.au.
"If you wound the clock back two years ago, I'd probably say no.
"He was the only one (not picked today) who I thought might have been a chance for that No.5 or 6 batting spot. Everything I'm hearing from that T20 tour and even the couple of tours before that is how he seems like he's in career best form and probably never played better.
"The last Test match he played (in 2019) he got five-fa and then he broke his hand. Green probably took Mitch's spot as that middle-order allrounder (in 2020), but if he hadn't punched that change room door in Perth, everything might be a little bit different."
Marsh did not make the final cut, but his Western Australian teammate Jhye Richardson did, after being picked as one of five seamers. Richardson, who last played a Test in February 2019, will be potentially competing with Michael Neser, but Ponting believes the Western Australian has the edge due to being pacy and more versatile.
"I think Jhye has got a little bit more pace up his sleeve when he needs it (and) is more of an out-and-out swing bowler with the brand new-ball, whereas Neser is more of a seamer.
"So I think Jhye would be the next cab off the rank.
"Neser's a very good bowler in the right conditions, I feel. I've always said about him that with a red ball in English conditions, he'd be an absolute genius. Even in South Africa.
"He reminds me a bit of Vernon Philander; he's a similar sort of height, a similar sort of pace, and he needs the ball to be doing something to be at his most effective."
In the last home series, the 1-2 defeat against India, Australia played the same three seamers for all four games, and eventually paid the price, with all the bowlers getting exhausted. Ponting reckons the Aussies would have learnt their lessons, and would be looking to rotate the seamers this time around.
"I think one thing we all learned last summer is how hard it is to get those same three fast bowlers through an entire series," he said.
"So I'll reckon they'll think about when the right time is to bring a guy out of a Test match, probably with conditions not suiting someone … to freshen those guys up."
Another player who will be making his Test comeback is Usman Khawaja and Ponting expressed that he was ‘rapt’ for the veteran. But the former Aussie skipper asserted that he was slightly puzzled to see both Khawaja and Travis Head get picked in the fifteen.
"I was actually a bit surprised that they named the two (Khawaja and Head)," he said. "If they haven't made a decision on it yet, I'm not sure how much clearer it's going to get over the next period of time.
"I'm rapt for Khawaja. I've been on record a few times that even when he got left out, I still felt he was in Australia's top six batters.
"Just reading between the lines, it would seem strange to go back to someone like him and not play him."
Australia have also named Queensland leg-spinner Mitch Swepson in the Ashes squad, and Ponting believes the leggie might get a game in Sydney or Melbourne should the management have enough faith in young Cameron Green to double-up as the third seamer.
"If they have enough faith in (Green) as a third seamer, I think Swepson is one of the most improved cricketers in the country," Ponting said.
"(The Queensland coaches) can't speak highly enough about him, so there could be an opportunity there.
"You'd have to think it'd be in Melbourne or Sydney or if the fifth Test is not in Perth and in Hobart or Canberra instead, opportunities for a second spinner could present themselves easily."