Ashes rethink has some bolters back in the mix
Surprise winner ... David Hussey. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
''THE ground rules have changed.'' Michael Hussey's shock retirement has not only left Australia with a gaping hole in the top six but has also forced a re-evaluation of the selection criteria leading into next year's twin Ashes series.
So says coach and selector Mickey Arthur, whose job it is, along with Michael Clarke and the rest of John Inverarity's selection panel, to find a way to cover the recent losses of Hussey and Ricky Ponting.
The big winner in any push for experience could be Hussey's brother David, whose 10 years of prolific scoring at first-class level has him bursting back into Test calculations despite a lean Shield summer for Victoria. Selectors were more willing to blood newcomers while Ponting and Hussey were present, believing the veterans would have a calming influence on any rookie, but that is no longer applicable.
Ponting and Hussey's retirements, along with Brad Haddin's dumping, mean Australia, who were already in a transitional phase, have lost a combined total of 289 Tests and nearly 22,000 runs in the past year.
While Usman Khawaja has been anointed as the next in line, selectors are wary of having so many newcomers in Australia's top six.
''When you had Ponting, Hussey and Clarke, it was all about injecting some youth into our side,'' Arthur said on Sunday. ''The ground rules have changed now because we've lost a massive amount of experience. That's why we need to sit down and chat - is it another experienced player or are we happy to go with a young gun? There's a lot of guys that come under consideration now.''
Arthur was careful not to name names, but one player whose stocks have soared is David Hussey. Although the Victorian believes he is only a ''1 per cent chance'', he could benefit from being at the right place at the right time. Others also in line are Khawaja and Alex Doolan while the likes of Rob Quiney and Callum Ferguson are outside chances.
Hussey, who turns 36 in July, would be only a short-term option but might suit Australia's agenda given the emphasis placed on regaining the Ashes next year and defeating India on the subcontinent.
''With Test matches in India and England we've got to sit down [and ask], do we want to have a look at a guy who is a proven run-scorer who has the right stats both in Australia and outside of Australia and can get hundreds?'' Arthur said.
With more than 12,000 first-class runs, 41 centuries and an average of 65 across 72 matches in county cricket for Nottinghamshire, David Hussey appears a strong candidate under Arthur's criteria.
The veteran, along with Chris Rogers and George Bailey, had been floated by selectors as a prospective Test batsman but seemed out of the running after a lean start to the Shield season with Victoria.
With the Shield in hiatus to accommodate the Big Bash League, it is possible Khawaja and the next batsman in line might have an unofficial one-on-one contest in the tour matches leading up to the first Test against India starting February 22.
The goalposts have also shifted for Shane Watson after the vice-captain conceded his days as an all-rounder might be limited due to his poor run with injury. ''He's got to be in the top four now,'' Arthur said. ''That was the chat that we had with 'Watto'. He plays by a different set of rules now. If he wants to be considered as a batter he then competes with out-and-out specialist batsmen for positions. He knows that.''
Arthur remains committed to fielding an all-rounder, with Victorian Glenn Maxwell, a hard-hitting batsman and developing off-spinner, holding the inside running.
''That [an all-rounder] gives you so much more scope,'' Arthur said. ''It would be desirable to find an all-rounder who can bat in our top six and be our fourth seamer or another spinner - hence Glenn Maxwell.''
Arthur did not rule out Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc and even Peter Siddle rising to the challenge of becoming an all-rounder. ''We need to move quick and make some definitive decisions,'' Arthur said.
Poll: Who should replace Mike Hussey in the Australian Test team's middle order?
- David Hussey - We now need some experience against India and England
- Usman Khawaja - He's the next young cab off the rank
- Alex Doolan - His runs for Australia A prove his class
- Callum Ferguson - Experienced via international one-day career
- Glenn Maxwell - He has the raw talent to become a swashbuckling no.6
Total votes: 15926.
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Poll closed 31 Jan, 2013
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