Veteran wicketkeeper Brad Haddin has been recalled to Australia’s test squad as Michael Clarke’s deputy to fill a leadership void for the Ashes tour to England.
The 35-year-old Haddin has played only one test in 15 months since falling behind Matt Wade in the wicketkeeping pecking order, but has been rushed back after Shane Watson quit as vice-captain in the wake of Australia’s disastrous 4-0 test series loss in India.
Cricket Australia has focused on rebuilding since the last Ashes series defeat to England in 2010-11 but, with Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey retiring from international cricket late last season, needed to shore up the leadership experience within the 16-man squad announced Wednesday.
Haddin, who has played 44 tests, was Australia’s vice-captain in the 2011-12 series and his presence adds some stability in case Clarke is injured.
Wade was retained in the squad which contained seven specialist batsmen, including 35-year-old Chris Rogers after a five-year absence, Nathan Lyons as the only spin bowler and a strong assembly of pace bowlers including Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson and Ryan Harris.
Newcomers include Jackson Bird, a Glenn McGrath-style line and length bowler who has played two tests, and the uncapped 22-year-old Tasmanian bowling allrounder James Faulkner.
Mitchell Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus missed out. Watson was the only proven allrounder selected in the squad and is expected to bowl on the tour.
Australia will play England in 10 consecutive tests, commencing with a five-match series in England starting July 10.
Selection committee chairman John Inverarity said Haddin would be the preferred `keeper in the first test at Trent Bridge.
“Having the vice-captaincy is something I know he will enjoy and embrace,” Clarke said. “The best teams I’ve seen in any sports have a good mix of youth and experience,” Clarke said. “I think this squad of 16 players has that mix.
“We have the talent, experience and youth to go over there and have success.”
After dominating the Ashes contests for almost two decades until the 2005 series loss in England 2005, Australia has lost three of the last four series – including the last two.
“There is no bigger series or rivalry in world cricket than the Ashes and the (selection committee) has picked a squad that will give us the best possible chance of winning in English conditions,” Inverarity said.
“We are under no illusion that this is going to be a huge challenge and we certainly go into it as underdogs.”
The Ashes defeat in Australia in 2010-11 triggered an overhaul of cricket administration in the country, including changes to how the selection panel is comprised.
Captain and coach are part of the panel now, although Inverarity confirmed Clarke was not part of the decision to recall his close friend and longstanding New South Wales state teammate Haddin.
“In regards to the vice-captaincy, we feel it’s important to have a senior, seasoned player support Michael at this time,” Inverarity said.
“When Shane Watson advised of his decision to stand down, (selectors) viewed Brad as the exceptional candidate to step into this leadership void.”
Australia’s batting group is stacked with of top-order batsmen, including five who can open the innings.
Left-handed opener Rogers played his only previous test in a loss to India in 2008 but forced his way in due to his consistently high numbers in domestic cricket for Victoria and Western Australia and his experience in English conditions, where he has scored more than 5,000 first-class runs at an average of 52, including 17 centuries since 2009.
“Chris Rogers is a hardened first-class cricketer and has been given a deserved opportunity on the back of sustained run-scoring in both Australia and England over many seasons,” Inverarity said. “He has vast experience in the UK and has performed outstandingly well over there.”
Australia was completely outclassed on the tour to India, losing all four tests, and also had to deal with the suspension of three players, including Watson, for the third test for off-field disciplinary matters.
“The tour to India was very demanding and a learning experience for all,” Inverarity said. “The result was unacceptable and the players, coaches, support staff are smarting from those performances and are galvanised to ensure that we play tough, competitive cricket throughout the Ashes.”
Squad: Michael Clarke (captain), Brad Haddin (vice-captain), David Warner, Ed Cowan, Chris Rogers, Phillip Hughes, Shane Watson, Usman Khawaja, Matthew Wade, James Faulkner, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson, Ryan Harris, Jackson Bird, Nathan Lyon.