Australian news May 5, 2010

Tasmania cut Dighton from squad

The veteran batsman Michael Dighton has been left out of Tasmania's list of contracted players for 2010-11, a group with few other changes from last season's squad. The Tigers lost Daniel Marsh to retirement and did not re-sign the rookies John Rogers and Wade Irvine in the first round of offers, but the absence of Dighton was more of a surprise.

Although he has not been part of the first-class team since November 2008, Dighton, 34, has remained an important part of the Tasmania top order in the 50-over format. He played every match in their triumphant FR Cup campaign and two months ago scored 80 in their victory over Victoria in the final, and the coach Tim Coyle said Dighton could yet remain in the mix.

"He's played well for a number of years but his form, he would admit, has fluctuated in recent times," Coyle told Cricinfo. "He played a very good innings in the final but up to then he'd had an average year, and he would have admitted that himself. We know he's a quality player so we'll just see how things roll out next week."

The states must finalise their full lists by next Thursday, meaning Dighton could yet win a contract in the second round of offers. However, there is a large group of axed players from other states searching for a home this season, including several top-order batsmen such as Mark Cosgrove, Nick Kruger, Greg Moller and Lloyd Mash.

The Tigers have added to their squad the batsman Steven Cazzulino, 23, who was the leading run scorer in Sydney grade cricket last summer with 1289 at 71.61. A left-hand opener who can bat for long periods, Cazzulino will aim to become Ed Cowan's opening partner in the Sheffield Shield after Jon Wells and Rhett Lockyear struggled to make the position their own in 2009-10.

There was no room for Rogers or Irvine in the first round of offers, while the bowler Hamish Kingston, 19, won a rookie contract. Despite finishing second last on the Sheffield Shield table last season, Tasmania were keen to retain stability by backing the core of their existing young squad.

"We've shown some faith in quite a number of people," Coyle said. "We had a number of new faces into the team last year. Having another major cleanout this year could have destablised the group.

"We blooded some players last year who did quite well - Alex Doolan, Brady Jones had some time as the wicketkeeper, Adam Maher played some cricket - all new players and developing players. There's still a lot of improvement in the group that we have."

Jason Krejza will spend the next couple of months recovering from hip surgery this week, although he is expected to be fully fit for the start of the pre-season. The other major injury worry is the ongoing knee problem for Ben Hilfenhaus, who this week started bowling again at the Centre of Excellence and is targeting the Australia A series against Sri Lanka A in late June for a possible comeback.

Tasmania squad George Bailey, Travis Birt, Luke Butterworth, Steven Cazzulino, Ed Cowan, Gerard Denton, Xavier Doherty, Alex Doolan, Brendan Drew, James Faulkner, Brett Geeves, Adam Griffith, Ben Hilfenhaus (Cricket Australia contract), Jason Krejza, Rhett Lockyear, Tim Macdonald, Adam Maher, Tim Paine (CA), Ricky Ponting (CA), Jon Wells.

Rookies Matthew Day, Brady Jones, Hamish Kingston, Jeremy Smith, Tom Triffitt.

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo