Hughes back for Hobart, but where's Warne?
Our cricket experts preview Australia's first Test against 'terrific cricketing side' Sri Lanka in Hobart.PT0M0S 620 349
IT MAY not be the green monster that devoured him last year but Phillip Hughes's remodelled technique is set to receive a stern first-up examination when he resumes his Test career on the controversial Bellerive Oval wicket on Friday.
The left-hander is set to be welcomed in his third coming as a Test player by a pitch that has the sufficient tinge of green to encourage any international pace attack.
Hobart's warmer-than-usual weather this week should ensure there will not be a repeat of the meagre totals seen at the venue in the Shield but the prospect of overcast conditions in the coming days will not make batting easy.
Final preparation ... Phillip Hughes. Photo: Getty Images
''There's going to be a lot of cloud cover, that's the main thing to worry about. It's going to be humid as well … I think it's going to swing around,'' said Bellerive curator Marcus Pamplin.
''I reckon it will probably swing more than [move off the] seam.''
How Hughes handles the Sri Lankans in Hobart will be a key talking point as the 24-year-old aims to revive a Test career which started in a blaze of glory in 2009.
Arguably the most promising young batsman in the country, Hughes now has his chance to follow in the footsteps of many star Australian batsmen, such as Greg Chappell, Steve Waugh and Matthew Hayden, who all achieved greatness after serving their time in Test exile.
In Waugh's case, he shelved the pull and hook shots as he deemed them too risky, while Chappell decided to play within the vee of mid-off and mid-on early in his innings until he was settled.
Hughes will continue to flay shots through his favourite region between point and cover but has also improved his on-side strokeplay, making it more difficult for bowlers to pin him down.
Australia's new No.3 needs to look no further than his captain to find a player whose career prospered after being axed. ''The time you are dropped is the most disappointing of your career, no doubt about it,'' said Michael Clarke, sent back to Shield cricket in 2005 before earning a recall in Bangladesh in 2006.
''For me it was the worst feeling I've ever had playing cricket, the realisation that all I ever wanted was to play cricket for Australia and to have it taken away from me because of my poor performances breaks your heart.
''But when I look back now on my career it was the best thing to happen to me … Fortunately for me I got a second chance. If anything, it gives you more hunger and makes you realise how much you want to play cricket for Australia and makes you realise how tough the game is.
''You have to work really hard to stay at the top consistently and the sign of a great player is longevity. I have a lot of respect for the guys who have played over 100 Tests because it means you have been consistently very good for a long period of time.''
Whether Hughes can reach those heights remains to be seen but the former Macksville prodigy, averaging 51 in the Shield this season, will enter his latest Test reincarnation in a far better frame of mind than his last trip to Bellerive when his belief was shattered. On that occasion, Australia's bowlers suppressed their celebrations after dismissing him in the nets for fear of further bruising his frail confidence.
In contrast, Clarke on Thursday had no hesitation questioning whether Hughes, batting on a neighbouring practice wicket, had nicked a ball down leg side from a net bowler.
But the Sri Lankans, despite queries over the potency of their pace attack, are confident they can send Hughes back to the drawing board.
''We've spoken to a few people and we've seen a lot of footage of him lately as well, we know where his strengths are now and what he's trying to do,'' captain Mahela Jayawardene said.