Ian Chappell roasts 'bulls**t' Aussie selection idea before India series

The cricket legend has hit out at one key aspect of the Aussie selection debate, ahead of the four-Test series against India.

Pictured left to right, Aussie cricket great Ian Chappell and left-arm spinner, Ashton Agar.
Aussie cricket great Ian Chappell has weighed in on the selection debate involving left-arm spinner, Ashton Agar. Pic: Getty

Australian cricket legend Ian Chappell has blasted national selectors over their "stupid" bowling ideas, in the lead-up to the Test series against India, starting on Thursday. The first of four Tests gets underway in Nagpur this week, with the Aussies set to be without pace duo Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc due to injury.

It also emerged over the weekend that allrounder Cameron Green will likely not be able to bowl and will only feature with the bat if he is selected in the Aussie XI for the first Test. Like Starc, the allrounder is battling to overcome his own finger injury, after breaking it against South Africa in the Boxing Day Test at the MCG.

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The situation leaves Australia's fast bowling stocks in disarray, with Hazlewood's absence opening the door for cult hero Scott Boland to play in his first overseas Test for Australia. The other man who looks increasingly likely to join a bowling quartet that also includes skipper Pat Cummins and off-spinner Nathan Lyon is left-arm tweaker, Ashton Agar.

Australia's chairman of selectors George Bailey made a point about Agar's left-arm spin complimenting Lyon's right-arm action when the squad was announced last month. Agar's superior batting record to the other spin options in Australia's squad - namely Todd Murphy and Mitchell Swepson - appears to put him in pole position to claim a spot in the starting XI.

"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 said last month.

However, Chappell has blasted the notion that bowlers should be picked on the basis of which arm they use, or in Agar's case, which way he turns the ball. The former Australia captain said while he can see the appeal for selectors to pick spinners who turn the ball in opposite directions, he said it would be "stupid" if the Aussies didn't just pick their best team.

"This bullshit about, 'Oh, we've got to pick a right-arm and a left-arm spin bowler' - it's crap. You pick your best bowlers," Chappell told Wide World of Sports. "This business of picking Agar because he can bat a bit - you don't pick bowlers because they can bat a bit; you pick bowlers because they can take wickets.

"You don't want to get too carried away with selections. I think there are too many theories on selection. In my opinion, if you pick the best players — one of the reasons why they're your best players are because they're your smartest players. They work things out."

Seen here, Australian cricket great and commentator Ian Chappell looking on during a Test match between Australia and Pakistan at the MCG.
Australian cricket great and commentator Ian Chappell looks on during a Test match between Australia and Pakistan at the MCG. Pic: Getty

Aussie selectors picked Swepson for last year's Test tour of Pakistan but opted to promote Agar ahead of the right-arm leg-spinner for the New Year's Test against South Africa at the SCG. Australia could also be tempted to end a 35-year first series opener in Nagpur by opting instead for a second specialist right-arm off-spinner in Murphy.

Murphy toured Sri Lanka with Australia A last year and picked up a handy 4-52 in Hambantota. There is plenty of talk that Murphy is currently the second-best spinner in the country, and on that basis would be picked ahead of Agar by Chappell's reasoning.

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Despite selectors and Aussie coach Andrew McDonald alluding to the need for variation to compliment Lyon, Australia's captain insists Murphy is definitely in the selection hunt. "It's a chance. That's something we'll have to balance up if we want to go with two spinners," Cummins told reporters on Saturday.

"Do we want variation or just two off-spinners? So there's no reason why we can't go that way. Travis Head is in the side as well and bowls really good off-spin. We've got plenty of variety to choose from."

If this proves to be the case, then Murphy and Lyon would become the first two right-arm offspinners to play together for Australia since Tim May and Peter Taylor in 1988. Lyon, set to play his 116th Test appearance in Nagpur, has never played with another specialist off-spinner in the baggy green.

This photo shows Todd Murphy bowling for the Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash League match against the Melbourne Stars in 2023.
Todd Murphy bowls for the Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash League match against the Melbourne Stars in 2023. Pic: Getty

Boland will almost certainly come in for his first Test outside of Australia, while speedster Lance Morris could be handed a dream debut as the only other quick in the 18-man squad. If Green is ruled out, Matt Renshaw will likely retain his place at No.6 after playing his first Test in more than four years during the New Year's match at the SCG.

Green will almost certainly not be ready to bowl in the Border-Gavaskar series opener but selectors are considering picking the 23-year-old as a batter only. If that is the case, then the fast-bowling burden will lie with just the two quicks in Cummins and most probably Boland.

"We haven't put a clear line through him (Green) or put him on the team-sheet yet," Australia coach Andrew McDonald told reporters in Bangalore. "He's made some significant steps forward in the last couple of days, probably to my surprise.

"There's still an outside chance that, everything going well, he might be on the team sheet." Australia opted for a training camp in Bangalore over playing a practice match leading into the eagerly-anticipated series.

Cummins' team will fly into Nagpur on Monday, with two days of training before the Test at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium. Lyon is the only bowler aside from Cummins certain to be in the XI.

Asked about picking two spinners, Cummins said: "I wouldn't say it's a given. I think sometimes, talking about a couple of spinners, you forget how good a lot of our fast bowlers have been in all conditions.

"We've got plenty of bowling options here – finger-spin, wrist-spin, left arm (pace) when Starcy comes back online. We'll obviously pick the bowlers that we think can take 20 wickets. How are we going to split that up, I'm not 100 per cent sure yet."

with AAP

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