Glenn Maxwell ... may have to fight it out with Mitchell Johnson. Photo: Getty Images
VICTORIA'S confident tyro Glenn Maxwell has bolted into the Test squad, but he will have to fight Mitchell Johnson for the right to be Australia's next allrounder in the New Year's Test at the SCG.
Maxwell, a daring batsman and developing off-spinner, is in contention to replace injured all-rounder Shane Watson, whose latest setback has left Australia without a vice-captain as Michael Clarke faces a fresh fitness battle to play in his home Test.
But Johnson batted and bowled himself into contention to fill the all-rounder's position, which would solve a problem created by the contentious rotation policy. Mitchell Starc, rested for the Boxing Day Test in which Australia thrashed Sri Lanka by an innings and 201 runs in less than three days, will return for the third Test in Sydney.
Johnson, who took six wickets, made 92 and broke the hands of two Sri Lankan batsman at the MCG, has made himself almost impossible to leave out. He could bat at No.7 and be part of an attack comprising four fast bowlers - Starc, Peter Siddle, Johnson and Jackson Bird - plus spinner Nathan Lyon.
In that case, Clarke (if fit) would bat at No.4, Mike Hussey five and wicketkeeper Matthew Wade at six. Maxwell, the alternative selection at No.7, is considered a likely selection for the impending Test tour of India as a spinning allrounder and has impressed the chairman of selectors, John Inverarity.
He boasts a batting average of 42 in first-class cricket and Victorian officials have groomed him to break the mould of short-form specialist. A confident character, he caught the attention of the cricket world when he announced himself as the man who could be Australia's ''X-factor'' at the World Twenty20 event in Sri Lanka.
Clarke also views him in those terms, and said he was a different bowler to Lyon despite the fact they both turned the ball the same way. ''They are two very different bowlers and Glenn obviously brings that all-rounder package. He is very good in the field [and] he averages over 40 with the bat in first-class cricket, so he's the full package, he's got that X-factor about him,'' Clarke said.
Conditions at the SCG will decide whether Maxwell becomes the third Australian this summer to make his Test debut or the selectors opt for four fast bowlers and Lyon.
That would save them from a tough decision on Bird, who performed an important containment role on debut with the new ball at the MCG while taking four wickets for the match.
''His control, no doubt, with the new ball is an area we have been looking for,'' Clarke said. ''He probably filled that role of Ben Hilfenhaus, being able to swing the ball away from the right-hander with the new ball and then take it across the left-hander off the wicket is a great strength.
''The one thing I really like about Jackson is you know what you're going to get. He bowled into the breeze the whole game and did a fantastic job for us.
''Again, I think on any given day you take your own wickets and score your own runs but what gets forgotten is the work the guy does up the other end, and I think Birdy played a huge part in Mitch's success up the other end in the first innings. To be able to build pressure allows a bowler like Mitch to attack.''
There is fresh uncertainty about Clarke's hopes of playing in Sydney, after a long innings in Melbourne, and this time there is no clear captain in waiting to deputise for him.
Though Usman Khawaja, the next batsman in line, remains on standby for Clarke, Australia are without a vice-captain because of Watson's calf injury.
Hussey, who has captained Western Australia and the national one-day team, was described by Inverarity last week as a leader ''in a quiet sort of way''. David Warner would be a less conservative choice.
''I haven't had that conversation with the selectors,'' Clarke said, when he was asked who would lead the team if his strained hamstring kept him out of the third and final Test against Sri Lanka.
He said his hamstring was no worse than before Boxing Day but the full toll of his innings of 106 at the MCG would not be known for a couple of days.