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January 8, 2013
There's nothing like being picked while in form, and Phillip Hughes is in the one-day form of his life. If Bradman had played 50-over cricket he might have produced the kind of scores that Hughes has in the past two years. Consider this remarkable figure: in 14 of his past 20 one-day innings, Hughes has scored at least a half-century. In that time, a period that stretches back to December 2010, he has averaged 90.28. Among Australians, only Michael Bevan has a higher List A average than Hughes.
And yet until now, Hughes has been considered a Test specialist by Australia's selectors. When he walks out at the MCG on Friday in the first ODI against Sri Lanka, it will be his first limited-overs game for his country. Of course, it's not easy breaking in to a top order that usually features David Warner, Shane Watson and Michael Clarke. But none of those men, nor Matthew Wade, are part of this ODI squad.
It means Australia will likely employ a top three consisting entirely of uncapped men: Hughes, Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja. The selectors are juggling a number of factors - resting some players, keeping Hughes and Khawaja away from the BBL in preparation for the India tour, planning ahead to the 2015 World Cup. Not all of the new men will keep their places, but Hughes hopes he can do enough to remain in the side when others return.
"It's an opportunity for guys coming in now, there's a few new faces around the squad," Hughes said. "For those guys resting for the first couple of games, they play that much cricket and I'm sure they'll come back fresh and bigger and better. It does allow guys now to get that opportunity ... now given this opportunity I'm grateful for it and hopefully I can stamp my authority in this format.
"My focus has been all three formats. I want to be that complete batsman playing three forms hopefully one day. There's still work I've got to do but for this opportunity to come up I'm grateful for it. I've had a fair taste of Test cricket now but never in the short format, so that's why I'm rapt about getting this chance."
There is nothing about Hughes' game that suggests he should ever have been considered a Test-only player. Powerful through the off side and naturally aggressive, Hughes bats in a way that should transfer to ODI cricket. His style has helped him score 114, 95 not out and 73 from three of his five Ryobi Cup innings this summer, and he was one of the leading scorers in the Clydesdale Bank 40-over competition last year, playing for Worcestershire.
"It's a format that you've got to really attack and that's probably my natural game," Hughes said. "The instincts take over and I really like to attack and get on that front foot and take the game forward. I feel like I've worked on a number of shots, especially through the leg side, over the last six to 12 months. Hopefully I can take that into this series.
"I feel like I've come a long way in one-day cricket. I had a stint in county cricket with Worcestershire and I felt like I performed quite well, and at the start of the season for South Australia. There's work that I had to do and I feel like I'm quite confident in my one-day game now. I'm really grateful for this opportunity and hopefully I can make the most of it."
Although the Australians have not yet confirmed a batting order, the likelihood is that Hughes will open with Finch, although Khawaja is another option, having opened for Queensland with success this season. All three are likely to make their debuts on Friday, while the Queensland bowling allrounder Ben Cutting is also a chance to earn his first ODI cap, in a side that will be captained by George Bailey.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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