Conjecture around the continued omission of Glenn Maxwell from Australia's Test squads is only likely to continue after coach Justin Langer added more confusion to the story in a terse press conference exchange.
- Langer said Glenn Maxwell has been told what is required to get back in the Test team
- The coach denied knowing anything about a CA directive that prevented Maxwell from playing county cricket to rest for an Australia A tour he wasn't picked for
- Langer supported the concept of a "bat-off" between Australia's young Test hopefuls in the CA XI warm up match in Hobart
Maxwell has not played Test cricket for Australia since the 2017 tour of Bangladesh, just months after an excellent breakthrough century in India, and since that time boasts one of the best Sheffield Shield averages in the country.
Plenty of reasons have been offered for Maxwell's continued absence, including that his outspoken personality has rubbed Cricket Australia (CA) up the wrong way — something Langer was firm in his denial of.
"Glenn is crystal clear from me, and the selectors, what he needs to do to get back in the Test team. He is crystal clear," Langer said.
"He has shown he is brilliant around the group in white ball cricket. There have been some reports about personality — it is literally false. It's not true.
"He is crystal clear what he has to do, and that's important that he knows that and that I know that as the coach and one of the selectors, and all the conjecture about it, that's all part of the noise."
When Maxwell was left out of Australia's squad for the two Tests against Pakistan in the UAE last year, reports emerged suggesting CA itself had played a role in denying Maxwell the opportunity to hone his long-form skills and make a case for Test selection.
The reports, which Maxwell later confirmed, claimed he was instructed by CA not to play county cricket in England during the off-season to rest for an Australia A tour of India. Maxwell was subsequently left out of that tour, with the justification that he did not need the added practice against spin bowling fuelling the assumption he would be selected for the UAE tour.
When he was not, it meant he had foregone any opportunity to play red-ball cricket for the majority of 2018, leaving him short of match practice when the 2018/19 Sheffield Shield season began and a long way back in the queue for Test selection.
But Langer, when quizzed on this sequence of events by a journalist, struck a defiant tone.
"Are you certain that's what happened? Did it happen? Well you're telling me it did happen, I'm asking did it happen?" he asked the journalist.
"No, I've got zero knowledge of that. Careless whispers, hey."
Langer — who admittedly was not the coach of the Australian team at the time Maxwell would have received the instruction from CA, and may genuinely have not known about it — soon apologised for his frustration.
"Sorry for getting grumpy too. I don't like being grumpy but there's so many stories that go around about so much stuff and it's, oh mate," he said.
"So sorry everyone for getting grumpy, I didn't mean to get grumpy, but the truth is a beautiful thing."
Langer flags CA XI 'bat-off' for Test spots
Langer also offered further commentary on the squad announced on Wednesday to face Sri Lanka in two upcoming Tests.
Joe Burns and Matt Renshaw join fellow young Queenslander Marnus Labuschagne and 20-year-old bolter Will Pucovski in the squad, with all four also named in a Cricket Australia XI side to take on Sri Lanka in a pre-Test warm up match in Hobart.
Australia Test squad:
- Tim Paine (c), Josh Hazlewood (vc), Joe Burns, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Will Pucovski, Matt Renshaw, Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle
The CA XI match is sure to be closely followed as the four batsmen stake their claim for a spot in the first Test in Brisbane, and Langer too is excited at the prospect.
"You could say it's a bat-off, and that's great," he said.
"And if there's pressure in that, then that's great because when you get to Test cricket, there's a lot more pressure than batting for a spot in the team."
Langer also opened up on the selection of Renshaw, who began his Test career in fine style as a 20-year-old but has since found it difficult to return to the baggy green fold. A poor run of scores early in the Shield season quashed his bid for selection against India — something Langer says he will have to learn from.
"It's one of the things about Matt Renshaw. This last little period for him is a brilliant lesson for a young player who we know is a very good player," he said.
"He will hopefully learn the lesson that, in the lead up to the Ashes he probably got a bit side tracked about getting selected for the Ashes. In the lead up to this Indian tour, he probably got a bit side tracked by getting selected.
"What happens when you do that … when you get side tracked by the future or by selection, you forget to keep your eyes on the ball and be good at what you are, which is a batsman.
"For Matt coming in, we know he's a great player, and a great lesson should be learned for a young player that, like all our young players, think about now and then the future will look after itself."
Langer also revealed Mitch Marsh has been withdrawn from the squad for the first ODI against India on Saturday due to a bout of gastritis (stomach inflammation), which hospitalised the all-rounder for two days.
Marsh has been replaced by WA batsman Ashton Turner.