Marcus Stoinis has only just arrived in India, but could be donning the whites for the third Test in Ranchi.
Marcus Stoinis has only just arrived in India, but could be donning the whites for the third Test in Ranchi. JULIAN SMITH

Stoinis could be surprise Test XI inclusion

CRICKET: Australia's injury dramas could see Marcus Stoinis come from the clouds and snatch an unexpected Test debut in Ranchi.

Nathan Lyon's sore finger may call for extra bowling support in an attack that's already lost its experienced spearhead Mitchell Starc.

Selectors are saying that all options are on the table at least until they see which wicket Virat Kohli chooses in Ranchi, with spinning all-rounder Glenn Maxwell and specialist batsman Usman Khawaja the other leading contenders to assume the No.6 position.

However, the fact that captain Steve Smith has barely bowled Maxwell in one-day cricket over the past few months, let alone his lack of first-class match play, raises deep concerns about how many overs he could realistically contribute in a Test match if a critical situation arose.

In the first two Tests a fifth bowler was surplus to requirements, with Mitchell Marsh called upon for only five overs in total, however, this time there is more doubt over the rest of the attack.

Lyon is expected to be in no doubt for Thursday's Test, but he may restrict his workload at training this week to give his finger more of a break, and newcomer Pat Cummins - although fit and raring to go, has not played a Test in five and a half years.

The extraordinary prospect is rising that two men - Stoinis and Cummins - who only arrived in India yesterday might find themselves playing key roles in keeping Australia's hands on the Border Gavaskar trophy.

Stoinis' selection as Marsh's replacement has been much scrutinised for his lack of batting form in Shield cricket this season, but it's his bowling that might get him over the line - with the Victorian seam all-rounder taking down Indian stars Cheteshwar Pujara and Karun Nair when he was in Chennai with Australia A in 2015.

Victorian skipper and Australian wicket-keeper Wade has no doubt Stoinis would be ready to go for a shock Test debut.

"He's developed beautifully. He's batted at No.3 for Victoria over a three or four year period now and averaged quite high in first class cricket," said Wade.

"That's placed him in a really good spot to play an all-round role for Australia.

"But the last couple of years we've seen improvements from his bowling.

"For Australia A he bowled really, really well taking pace off. He knocked off a couple of their big players in that series so I think the last couple of years that's where the selectors have seen a bit more in him.

"They always knew he was a really strong batter, but his bowling has improved out of sight the last few years."

Three wicketless overs in a Twenty20 series against Sri Lanka last September is the only international bowling Maxwell has done in 12 months.

If Australia is confronted with another pitch turning square in Ranchi they may feel confident that four bowlers is enough to win the Test match, and in that scenario Maxwell could be the strongest candidate given his outstanding match-changing power with the bat.

But if selectors are having any hesitancy about going into a Test without a fifth bowler, it could be a major risk to be relying on Maxwell to bowl in excess of 10 overs.

Ashton Agar is an outstanding bowler, but given how difficult batting has been on this tour, it's doubtful selectors could justify him batting at No.6.

News Corp Australia

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