Adelaide Strikers batsman Phil Hughes. Photo: Getty Images
Michael Hussey has added his voice to those querying the snubbing of Phil Hughes for Australia's tour of South Africa, saying the left-hander had done everything asked of him by selectors.
Hughes' state coach at South Australia, Darren Berry, is on the front foot seeking clarification from national selector John Inverarity and the rest of the panel about his absence from the 15-man squad, with Tasmania's Alex Doolan and a recalled Shaun Marsh getting the nod over him.
The 25-year-old's two hundreds and a double century - he has 549 first-class runs to his name this season at an average of 61 - were overlooked for batsmen with far more modest output this summer. Both Doolan and Marsh were averaging under 40 for their states when the Sheffield Shield competition broke last month to make way for the Big Bash League caravan.
"I think Phil Hughes has got to count himself very unlucky," Hussey said. "He's been asked by the selectors to go back and score runs in Sheffield Shield cricket and that's what he has done and he's piled them. He's done it probably a lot more than any of the other candidates have."
Hussey said earlier in the week he was "shocked" at the omission of George Bailey for the series against the world No.1 Proteas and believes Hughes is a victim of a scheduling issue that needs to be addressed. Marsh, with two fifties in two matches for Australia's one-day team in the lead-up to the squad announcement, was in the right place at the right time but that is no consolation for Hughes.
"There hasn't been any red-ball cricket to show the selectors that you're in really good touch at the moment," said Hussey, who captains the Sydney Thunder in Saturday night's BBL local derby against the Sixers at ANZ Stadium.
"[The selectors] are probably looking at the right now how someone's going, rather than how they were going a month ago, so it's probably unfortunate just with the scheduling at this stage for Phil Hughes that he wasn't able to get a bit more four-day cricket under his belt around this time. He probably would have been on the plane.
"I know that's something that the ACA [the Australian Cricketers' Association] are working really hard on, to try and make alternative suggestions to Cricket Australia to try and sort the scheduling out so it's best for everyone, especially for the Australian players."
A former state colleague of Marsh's at Western Australia the former Test batsman is hopeful, however, that the 30-year-old left-hander can prove why the selectors have gone out on a limb for him.
"He's obviously had lots of ups and downs in his career, both on and off the field, but eventually it sort of sorts itself out and you focus on what's really important," Hussey said.
"I think Shaun is getting sorted out how he plays best and prepares best and who he hangs around with and all that sort of stuff. Hopefully it's an opportunity he can run with. It's not easy playing international cricket. It's such a mental game and how people deal with the mental side of the game often is the difference between success and failure. I think now he's getting to a stage of his career where he understands his game very well, he understands that there are going to be ups and downs throughout a career and he understands what needs to be done to have success at the highest level. Hopefully he's coming into his prime and can play really consistently for the foreseeable future."