CHANNEL NINE has reacted with bemusement to the omission of Michael Hussey and David Warner from the one-day squad, concerned it dilutes the appeal of the series against Sri Lanka.
Hussey, who completed his final Test at the SCG on Sunday, was left out of the 13-man limited-overs side for the first two one-day games in Melbourne on Friday and in Adelaide on Sunday, denying the retiring veteran an extended home farewell tour. Warner, meanwhile, has been rested for the first two matches, as has wicketkeeper Matthew Wade and Test captain Michael Clarke, who is being given time off to recover from a hamstring strain. An injured Shane Watson is also missing.
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Michael Hussey admits it is a dream come true to lead Australia to a clean sweep over Sri Lanka in his last ever Test.
A new-look team featuring Phillip Hughes and Usman Khawaja, as well as a recalled Brad Haddin, will be led instead by Australia's Twenty20 captain George Bailey but the absence of Hussey and Warner has not impressed Nine.
''From an entertainment point of view, and as a fan, I struggle to understand how those two are not in the side,'' Steve Crawley, Nine's director of sport, said. ''There is no doubt we've got to bring in new players. I think that's a good thing. But I don't get leaving out Warner and Hussey. When my kids play in the yard, they're David Warner and Michael Hussey.'' Nine is conscious of the ratings boost drawcards such as the big-hitting Warner and sentimental favourite Hussey could provide.
The home summer one-day games regularly reach an average five-city metro audience of 1.2 million but could potentially take a hit with selectors leaving out several star players.
Nine is also in a delicate position in its efforts to retain cricket's broadcasting rights. Rival networks Seven and Ten are expected to make formal bids in the next fortnight but Nine's last rights option will in all likelihood help it trump those offers and sign a new five-year deal this month.
Crawley insisted Nine and Cricket Australia maintained a good relationship but was clearly disappointed that selectors had decided to give Warner a break and ''move forward'' beyond Hussey.
''We've got different agendas. But as a fan, if I was picking the side I'd have Warner not only in the side but as captain,'' he said. ''And as far as Michael Hussey goes, he's Jack Nicholson if you're making a movie. I'm into the romance of it all but I think we should be celebrating his final summer all the way.''
National selector John Inverarity said he believed the squad named was a ''particularly exciting side'', defending the move to usher in the likes of Aaron Finch, Hughes, Khawaja and Ben Cutting. ''I think
this is a very, very attractive side,'' Inverarity said. ''How will we know about the best players of the future if opportunity is not invested in them?''
He said Warner needed a spell after a demanding schedule that has since August taken him to the United Arab Emirates for one-day games, the World T20 in Sri Lanka, the Champions League in South Africa and six Tests against South Africa and Sri Lanka.
''You never want to miss a game for Australia but obviously getting two games off is fantastic for me to mentally prepare for the one-day series and the Test series coming up in India,'' Warner said.
Inverarity said giving the 37-year-old Hussey a farewell in the five one-day games against Sri Lanka and next month's five matches in West Indies was discussed but selectors opted to look to the future. Hussey announced after the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne that he would retire from international cricket this summer.
''Our intention before two weeks ago was to give Michael a break during the Sri Lankan series and then have him refreshed and ready to come back into the ODIs against the West Indies and then off to India,'' Inverarity said.
''Of course things changed a bit last week. We've talked it over with Mike but the overriding fact is what's best for Australian cricket and we move forward and we're very mindful of the 2015 World Cup.
''We think these ODIs are very important in terms of players like Usman Khawaja and Phillip Hughes and others having the opportunity being within the team and being in the ODI side rather than playing Big Bash League cricket partly as an opportunity for India for those who are selected. So I think we need to use those places for the future of Australian cricket.''
Haddin, 35, is in the team with a view to the Ashes rather than the World Cup, seen as the likely back-up to Wade this winter.
Cricket Victoria boss Tony Dodemaide said he understood the disappointment of fans but also the logic of the selectors, and could not predict whether the absence of several drawcards would diminish the crowd on Friday night. ''After six Tests it is probably the logical time to give these guys a break,'' he said.