New Australia captain Pat Cummins has confirmed batsman Travis Head and fast bowler Mitchell Starc will play in the first Ashes Test.
Cummins said that Head is set to be picked ahead of Usman Khawaja in this week’s first Ashes Test at the Gabba, while the early call on left-arm quick Mitchell Starc, as a new ball bowler, means the hosts have now settled on a line-up well ahead of Wednesday’s toss.
“It was a tight one, the selectors make the call, but both are really good options, with really strong form,” said Cummins at a pre-series media event with both team captains on Sunday.
Head was dropped after the Boxing Day Test against India last year, and Cummins said the way he has responded gave him a narrow edge over the veteran Khawaja.
“Experience is great from Uzzie [Khawaja] and were really lucky to have that in the squad. But Travis been playing a lot for us the last couple of years, and he’s gone away and churned out runs over in England and here in Australia and we feel like he’s really ready to go.”
Cummins said he was leaning towards allowing Starc — who held his place in Australia’s bowling quartet ahead of Jhye Richardson and Michael Neser — to join Josh Hazelwood as the new ball pairing in Brisbane.
“No [I haven’t decided] is the honest answer; I probably won’t [open] first-up, but we’ve been quite fluid in recent years, pending the situation,” Cummins said. “Maybe [I will if it’s] late in the day and with only a couple of overs to bowl and I feel I want to have a crack.
“Starcy’s great .. we knew we had three weeks building up and he’s been building up nicely, he was fast [in training on Saturday], swinging the ball big,” Cummins said.
England captain Joe Root was less forthcoming about England’s lineup.
Root admitted he is yet to settle on his side and whether he would select an all-out pace attack at the pace-friendly Gabba and leave out spinner Jack Leach.
“We’ve got all the options on the table just now and we’re not going to name the team just yet,” Root said.
We can spend hours and hours talking about Australia but ultimately we have to prepare ourselves as best we can and look after our own thing and make sure with the preparation we’ve had we get the most out of the next few days.”
Root will be looking to become the first captain to lead England to victory in Australia since Mike Gatting in 1986-87.
The Yorkshireman’s side shared a 2-2 draw with the Australians in England two-and-a-half years ago and Root is hoping to go one better this time around.
If you look at how hard it has been for English captains and English teams over the years, [winning in Australia] is something that doesn’t happen very often, so of course it will define my captaincy,” he said.
“I’m not naive enough to think that it won’t. But it’s a great opportunity. I’m very excited about it and can’t wait for the series to get going.”
Preparations for both teams have been affected by the ongoing pandemic, but Root is confident his team will be ready when the first ball is bowled.
“We’ve planned extremely well for this series, we’ve given ourselves the best chance in many ways and we’ve made the most of the little preparations that we have had until now,” he said. “It’s important we can continue that over the next couple of days.”