Australian skipper Steve Smith is turning Big Brother as he scans a clutch Sheffield Shield round to fill two key Ashes slots, but he concedes there's a board mandate to give youth a chance.
Leading 2016-17 Shield run-scorer and former Test opener Ed Cowan, 35, was filthy at demotion for the Blues' day-night Shield season opener against South Australia starting today in Adelaide. Daniel Hughes, 28, was preferred.
However, Smith notes national selectors successfully invested in opener Matt Renshaw and middle-order batsman Peter Handscomb after Hobart's house of horrors against South Africa last December.
Expect more deference to youth where possible as selectors determine their first Test XI to face England from November 23 at the Gabba.
"There is pressure for spots so we want to see guys play under pressure and play well," said Smith.
"We have taken a bit of a stance at Cricket Australia of picking younger guys. That was a bit of a directive from the board. We saw some young guys come in - Renshaw and Handscomb - do a really good job so it is about making the most of your opportunities.
"It's a good opportunity for a couple of guys to make some scores and demand selection."
It appears only a mountain of early-season runs from veterans like Shaun Marsh and Callum Ferguson would command Test recalls.
Two-Test all-rounder Hilton Cartwright, 25, and Redbacks skipper Travis Head, 23, represent the young-blood vying for the No.6 slot. Enigmatic Glenn Maxwell, 28, must shine from the outset against Queensland at the Gabba this weekend to shore up his No.6 berth. Western Australia's Marcus Stoinis wants to demonstrate why a one-day batting average of 86 could transfer to Test ranks.
Matt Wade is battling to retain Test tenure while Smith will scrutinise first-hand a showdown between Blues keeper Peter Nevill and boom SA counterpart Alex Carey in Adelaide.
"I will be watching for sure, everyone out in the field and all the other games as well. That is part of my job as Australian captain," said Smith.
While Smith is casting eyes far and wide for a winning Ashes ensemble, his own form remains pivotal to Australia's Ashes success.
"I didn't feel as good as I could have over in India and Bangladesh. It is a big summer with the Ashes and like to get some runs early in the season," said Smith, who averaged 29 in the drawn Test series against Bangladesh.
Smith will have three of his Test attack in Adelaide - Mitch Starc, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon with Josh Hazlewood rested. Cummins is out to prove his durability when unleashed for the first time at Adelaide Oval.
"Pat's excited to get there and Starcy has been swinging it. Hopefully they can have a big impact," said Smith
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