The Australian selectors appear to be still weighing their options even as they name the squad for next week Ashes' opener at the Gabba. Off-spinner Xavier Doherty and batsman Callum Ferguson have are among the major inclusions in the bloated 17-member group for Brisbane that also has middle-order bat Usman Khawaja and speedsters Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle. However, Philip Hughes who was being considered as a back-up opener is the only surprising omission.
The present squad which is larger that England's touring party for the entire series, will be reduced to about a dozen after the week's itinerary of Sheffield Shied matches. The selectors might also be interested to see how the present contenders fare in the Australia A versus England match on Wednesday at Hobart.
The four-day game between New South Whales and Tasmania should be an especially intriguing encounter as it will see the two Ashes prospects Nathan Hauritz and Xavier Doherty slug it out for a place in the side. Xavier Doherty who is currently being viewed as a limited over specialist has placed extra pressure on the incumbent Hauritz who has has hit a rough patch in recent months.
"One of the biggest decisions we will need to make is whether we go into the first Test in Brisbane with a right-arm offspinner or with the variation of a left-arm orthodox bowler, " said Andrew Hilditch, the chairman of selectors. "Xavier Doherty has been very impressive in both limited-overs and first-class cricket, in particular last season and the start of this season, and it will be a great opportunity for us to observe both of the spinning options in the Sheffield Shield clash between New South Wales and Tasmania at the SCG this week."
Meanwhile, the recurrence of Michael Clarke's back problem shakes up the equation for Australia's batting line up. Callum Ferguson and Usman Khawaja enter the fray and might be vying for a position in case the selectors become disenchanted with Michael Hussey or Marcus North through the summer. Simon Katich is almost a certainty dispite being out of action for a while due to a broken thumb. But he had played grade cricket and will be part of the line-up for New South Whales four day match this week.