Ins and outs
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 Ashes series - the first of two in a row.
''The ground rules have changed,'' says coach and selector Mickey Arthur, whose job it is, along with Australia captain Michael Clarke and the rest of John Inverarity's selection panel, to find a way to cover for the losses of Hussey and Ricky Ponting.
And 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 back into Test calculations despite a lean Sheffield Shield summer.
Usman Khawaja is one of those who is in the mix to take Michael Hussey's place. Photo: Getty Images
Selectors had been more willing to blood newcomers while Ponting and Hussey were in the team, as they believed the pair would have a calming influence on any rookie. But that is no longer applicable.
Ponting and Hussey's retirements, along with the dumping of Brad Haddin, means Australia, which was already in a transition phase, has lost a combined total of 289 Test matches and nearly 22,000 runs in the past year.
While Usman Khawaja has been anointed as the next cab off the rank, selectors are wary of having so many newcomers in Australia's top six.
Alex Doolan is also in the running. Photo: Anthony Johnson
''When you have Ponting, Hussey and Clarke, it was all about injecting some youth into our side,'' Arthur said.
''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 who come under consideration now.''
While Arthur was careful not to name names, clearly David Hussey will be discussed. Although the Victorian believes he is only a ''1 per cent chance'', he may benefit from being in 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.
David Hussey, who turns 36 in July, would only be a short-term option but may 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.
David Hussey, 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 shaky start to the shield season with Victoria.
With the shield in hiatus to accommodate the Big Bash, it's possible Khawaja and the next batsman in line may have an unofficial bat-off in the tour matches leading up to the first Test against India, starting on February 22.
The goal posts have also shifted for Shane Watson after the vice-captain conceded his days as an all-rounder may 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 realises that.''
That rules out the possibility of Watson batting at six, but Arthur remains committed to playing an all-rounder. Victorian Glenn Maxwell, a hard-hitting batsman and developing off-spinner, has the inside running after his call-up last week for the Sydney Test.
''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.
Another question that will need answering is whether wicketkeeper Matthew Wade should be asked to bat at No. 6 in order to fit in a second spinner or fourth paceman.
''Myself and Michael [Clarke] really need to sit down and recommend to the selection panel how we want the team structured,'' Arthur said. ''It's probably too early to call those things, there's so many options available. We need to move quick and make some definitive decisions.
''That's why it's such an exciting time, because we've got so many challenges ahead of us.''
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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