After a disastrous start to the summer, the Australian cricket team has been cleaned out with dramatic effect.
Rookies Matt Renshaw, Peter Handscomb and Nic Maddinson have been thrust into the firing line as batsmen amid a drastically changed Australian squad for Thursday's day-night Test against South Africa in Adelaide. Paceman Chadd Sayers was also included alongside Jackson Bird, with Matthew Wade recalled to don the gloves in a Test for the first time since 2013.
Six changes from one Test squad to another is a figure not seen in Australian cricket since 1984, when the same number was made against the fearsome West Indies team that ultimately destroyed Kim Hughes' captaincy.
Five players were dropped from the team that was swept aside by an innings and 80 runs in Hobart last week, including debutants Callum Ferguson and Joe Mennie. Opening batsman Joe Burns and wicketkeeper Peter Nevill were also axed, with Adam Voges unavailable due to a concussion suffered in a Sheffield Shield match. The Hobart loss also triggered the resignation of selection chairman Rod Marsh, who has been replaced by interim Trevor Hohns.
With Australian cricket in its largest transition period in recent memory, let's get to know the new players that will help field one of Australia's least-experienced Test sides in history.
After the squad's announcement, the biggest smile belonged to wicketkeeper Wade, who will play his first Test match for Australia since his axing during the tumultuous India tour of 2013. Wade's recall for this week's Adelaide Test is good news for captain Steve Smith, who pleaded for Australian players to show more aggression. Wade fits the bill perfectly, with his belligerent presence behind the stumps sure to upset the South African batsmen. Wade can bat, with two Test centuries to his name. Importantly, he is part of a winning culture, having skippered Victoria to consecutive Sheffield Shield wins this summer.
One of the finest young opening batsmen in Australia, Renshaw will become the youngest Australian debutant since a feisty left-hander named Phillip Hughes made his debut as a 20-year-old against South Africa in 2009. Renshaw is the same age and will take on the same foe, but will debut in much different circumstances. Hughes helped the Aussies to a memorable series win in South Africa, whereas Renshaw has been thrust into a side that is struggling to stay afloat on home turf. Last summer, Renshaw became the youngest ever to score a Sheffield Shield century for Queensland. From just 12 first-class games he has 1021 runs at 44.39, with three centuries.
When this Victorian compiled a mammoth double-century against New South Wales last week, the Aussie selectors thought they had struck gold. Handscomb looks to be the saviour to Australia's batting woes, but many see his selection as a knee-jerk reaction by the selectors who desperately want to plug the batting hole left by Adam Voges. Regardless, Handscomb oozes quality. Since the start of last summer, nobody has scored more Sheffield Shield runs than Handscomb's 1147 at 52.13, which includes four centuries. His selection for Adelaide also stems from the fact that he is also the highest run scorer in day-night Sheffield Shield games, with 480 runs at 60, including two centuries.
Sayers has been one of the form bowlers of the last few summers. To many, it's surprising that it took this long for the selectors to reward the South Australian paceman with the coveted Baggy Green. Sayers has been in Australia's Test squad before, touring New Zealand earlier this year, albeit not called on in either of the two Tests. Sayers is the Sheffield Shield's leading wicket taker of the past four years, collecting 131 wickets at 23.45. With a swinging pitch expected for this week's Test in Adelaide, Sayers holds the key to Australia's bowling performance behind mainstays Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood.
Maddinson's selection was arguably the most unclear of the lot. Maddinson is by no means a slouch with the bat; in 2010, at the age of 18, he became the youngest player to score a century on Sheffield Shield debut for New South Wales. His record lasted only until the next summer, when his team-mate Kurtis Patterson broke it again. Maddinson failed in both innings against Victoria last week, while Patterson made crucial runs. However, Maddinson has been highly regarded for some time - even playing for Australia A in England in 2013 on the day Darren Lehmann was appointed coach in place of Mickey Arthur. Maddinson is also close to Aussie captain Smith, which could help ease the pressure of Maddinson's Test debut.
It's obvious that the selectors have chosen to gamble on youth, rather than rely on players with prior experience, to ensure that the Australian team can at least have a shot at building a team that can move into the future. Of course, when David Warner, James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc all debuted in the same match back in 2011, the same questions were asked, but they are now all a permanent part of Australia's set-up. Each new player now has a chance to turn Australia's performances around, but they will require time to get settled.