(Reuters) – A changing of the guard is taking place in Australian test cricket and the gathering pace of the rebuilding process will be on show in Brisbane this week.
With one eye on the future, Australian selectors anointed Steve Smith as their new skipper on Monday and began replenishing the bowling stocks a day later by awarding a first test cap to Josh Hazelwood for the second test against India.
The lanky paceman has long been recognised as a rising star of Australian cricket but the 23-year-old’s elevation to the test team has taken longer than expected. He played his first one-day-international as a teenager in 2010 and was selected for Australia’s tour of India later that year but withdrew because of a back injury.
Hazelwood had to wait more than three years before playing his second ODI for Australia, then another year before finally getting his first call up to the test team. “It’s very exciting. I’ve watched Josh very closely over the last couple of years at New South Wales and he impresses me every time,” Smith told reporters in Brisbane yesterday.
“I think he’s only getting better and better. This pitch out here is going to suit him perfectly.”
Standing 6ft-5in (1.96m) tall, Hazelwood has all the physical attributes for a fast bowler and has been steadily making his presence felt in Australia’s first-class competition.
In this year’s Sheffield Shield final, he took career-best figures of 6-50 to help New South Wales win the title. Then last month, he took his best ODI figures when he snared 5-31 for Australia against South Africa. Smith becomes the 440th player to play a test for Australia. He will be presented with his baggy green cap on the Gabba outfield prior to the start of the second of four tests against India on Wednesday morning. The new captain is confident Hazelwood will be a big success on a bouncy Gabba surface where he has captured 24 first class wickets. “He’s very skilful for his age,” Smith added. “I’m just looking forward to seeing him zing a few through and bowl with that extra bit of pace and get that extra bit of bounce.
“(The Gabba) is traditionally quite a fast and bouncy wicket and it certainly looks no different out there for this test match.”