It isn’t your traditional selection headache but Trevor Hohns and his panel face a major challenge this month as they seek to settle a Test squad in one of Australian cricket’s most uncertain hours.
Chairman of selectors Hohns and coach Darren Lehmann are among the many stakeholders desperate for an end to the pay scrap between Cricket Australia (CA) and the Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA).
The previous Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) expired on June 30. Players and administrators are at war but both parties have tried to keep things as close to ‘business as usual’ as possible.
Some 230 players are unemployed but none has walked off the job. State players continue to slog it out in pre-season training.
The cancellation of an Australia A tour that should have started in South Africa on Wednesday is the biggest casualty of the scrap so far.
It damaged the baggy green ambitions of many players.
It also made life harder for selectors Hohns, Greg Chappell and Lehmann, who will soon return to Australia from holidays in England.
The selection panel is yet to decide on which bowler will be added to the 13-man squad that was picked for the upcoming Test tour of Bangladesh. Mitchell Starc is unavailable because of a foot injury.
There is no recent evidence for selectors to study. The pair of four-day clashes in South Africa were meant to be a virtual bowl-off between pacemen Jackson Bird, Chadd Sayers, Jason Behrendorff and Chris Tremain.
It’s understood leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson, who had also been due to face South Africa A this month, also remains in the mix for a call-up.
Swepson toured India earlier this year with the Test squad but was restricted to drinks duty and bowling in the nets.
Hohns might wish to summon the young tweaker and a handful of quicks to Darwin, where the Test squad is set to assemble on August 10. They would then have a chance to impress in a three-day intra-squad match that starts on August 14 before selectors make a call.
Players have made it clear they want a new MoU in place, or at least genuine progress in negotiations, before touring.
Selectors will meet later this month. CA and the ACA are both upbeat that protracted pay talks will advance before the squad, including on-duty selector Hohns, is due to land on August 18 in Bangladesh.
However, many figures in the industry are already privately casting doubt on the prospect of the trip going ahead.
On top of the MoU impasse, advice from Australia’s Foreign Affairs department is for citizens to “reconsider” their need to travel to Bangladesh. Security concerns forced the postponement of Australia’s trip to Bangladesh in 2015.