SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 04: Peter Handscomb of Australia celebrates his century during day two of the Third Test match between Australia and Pakistan at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 4, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Australia's 18-man squad to tour India is set to be announced this week, with plenty of intriguing selection questions facing the selectors.

While there are plenty of certainties for the tour, the make-up of the first Test XI (to be played on February 9) won't be any closer to being known by the naming of the squad.

Tours of the sub-continent are always tricky to predict, simply because it's a case of “how many spinners?”

In this instance, and based on the last couple of Australian tours to the sub-continent, whether that be India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, or matches in the United Arab Emirates, it can be expected that the XI will feature two spinners.

That said, the make-up of the 18-man squad is likely to feature three of the slower bowlers, at least five quicks, and the rest being made up by the batting.

Here are the 18 players who should tour India.

Top order

Usman Khawaja, David Warner, Henry Hunt, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith

The top order for India is just about set in stone, and features the three players who will likely decide whether Australia have a chance of winning the series or not.

Usman Khawaja has fast become one of the best players of spin in the world - something that was simply inconceivable not so long ago.

He will open the batting alongside David Warner, who has bought himself a retirement date when he chooses it after his double-century during the Boxing Day Test in difficult conditions at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

That said, Warner failed on every other occasion during the home summer, so don't be surprised if pressure finds its way to him very quickly.

That is why Henry Hunt has been included in the predicted squad - he scored 601 runs at 42.92 last summer, and while he hasn't had the same impact this summer, he is earmarked as Australia's next opening batsman. Tim Ward out of Tasmania is the other, currently averaging a tick over 40 this summer.

Marcus Harris will also be on the radar, while Matt Renshaw is in the middle order but could shift to the top if need be.

Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith - two of the best batsmen in the world - will then hold down the number three and four spots in the line-up without a shadow of a doubt. There is simply no competition anywhere in Australia for the duo.

Middle order and all-rounders

Travis Head, Cameron Green, Peter Hansdcomb, Matthew Renshaw

Travis Head and Cameron Green are the obvious inclusions to take the number five and six spots in the side.

Green will be battling to be fit for the first Test, but provided he is, he will provide Australia with excellent flexibility in the bowling attack.

Matt Renshaw played in Sydney and has enough Sheffield Shield runs to suggest he will be part of the tour to India.

Peter Handscomb is the selection which simply must happen. An excellent player of spin, he won't be in Australia's first-choice XI, but also wouldn't be that far away.

After topping all Sheffield Shield run-scorers last year with 697 at 49.78, The Victorian has picked up where he left off, scoring 571 this season in five matches at an average of 81.57.

That does include a mega performance of 281, but his weight of runs over the last 18 months, combined with his ability against spin, make him a must-select in the side.

Handscomb is also in the squad as a backup wicket-keeper.


Alex Carey
Obviously, Alex Carey will be the first choice. A strong player of spin, the South Australian will be an important part of this tour to India.

The likes of Sam Whiteman and Josh Inglis will be on the radar as a backup, however, with Handscomb able to wear the gloves in the short-term if needed due to injury, and spots at a premium, the idea of taking a specialist backup wicket-keeper will be struck down pretty quickly one would think.

Pace bowlers

Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Scott Boland, Lance Morris
The five pace bowlers who will tour India are fairly set in stone, although only two are likely to play per Test.

Mitchell Starc has confirmed he will miss the first Test, meaning Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood could be the series-starting duo.

Scott Boland will also go after continuing to impress at Test level this summer while Hazlewood was out injured, while Morris is a likely inclusion. He was around the Test squad during the summer, and while not debuting, will only learn further during his time in India, while also serving as a direct back up for Starc with pace and raw aggression.

Spin bowlers

Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Swepson, Todd Murphy
It has been mentioned by captain Pat Cummins that Ashton Agar is almost certain to be on the tour of India, but… It makes little to no sense.

Agar has played just a handful of red-ball games this season, and struggled in all of them. He then struggled at the Sydney Cricket Ground in his Test return, not taking a wicket despite the pitch being favourable.

Compare that to Todd Murphy, with the Victorian averaging less than 18 with the ball this summer, and you have a question that comes to an obvious answer - it's doubtful the selectors will find said answer though.

Sheffield Shield - VIC v NSW: Day 4

Nathan Lyon is the first-choice spinner and one of the first-picked in the squad, leaving one more spot, which should go to Mitch Swepson.

His struggles last year against Pakistan where he took combined figures of 2 for 256 could make the selectors hesitant though, so in truth, with Agar set to be picked, the battle for the final spot could be down to Murphy and Swepson.

I'd be taking both though.

Zero Wicket's 18-man squad to tour India

Pat Cummins (c), Steve Smith (vc), Scott Boland, Alex Carey (wk), Cameron Green, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Henry Hunt, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Lance Morris, Todd Murphy, Matthew Renshaw, Mitchell Starc, Mitch Swepson, David Warner