Australia news December 14, 2011

Hughes pulls out of Big Bash League


Australia's under-fire Test opener Phillip Hughes has withdrawn from the Big Bash League in order to focus on his form in the longer format. Although Hughes is expected to be axed from the side for the Boxing Day Test against India after a disappointing few months, he has not entirely given up on retaining his spot and does not want to be distracted by the BBL over the next two weeks.

Hughes had signed for the Sydney Thunder, who begin their Twenty20 campaign on Saturday night against the Melbourne Stars at the MCG. Had Hughes played in that game, he would have needed to rush to Canberra on Sunday to prepare for Monday's three-day Cricket Australia Chairman's XI encounter against the Indians.

That match is his last chance to impress the selectors ahead of Boxing Day, after he was caught in the cordon by Martin Guptill off Chris Martin in all four innings of the recent Test series as New Zealand exploited his weakness outside off stump. Since Simon Katich was dumped from Australia's squad mid-year, Hughes has averaged 27.69 in Test cricket.

"Following my performances over the last few months, I have decided that, right now, I need to be completely focus on my first-class cricket career," Hughes said in a statement. "I'm obviously disappointed that I haven't been able to score the runs in the last few Tests that I know I am capable of and I want to do everything I can to ensure that my game continues to develop.

"I talked with Pup [captain Michael Clarke] and [coach] Mickey Arthur about it after the Hobart Test and they both supported my thinking. I then approached John Dyson (Sydney Thunder) and Pat Howard (Cricket Australia) to ensure that they would be comfortable for me to step away from my contract with the Thunder.

"Selfishly, it's the right decision for me but I'm obviously concerned that I have made this decision on the eve of the Thunder's first game. Everyone has been extremely understanding and I wish the boys all the best for a successful Big Bash season. I'm now focusing on next week's Chairman's XI game in Canberra and can't wait to face the Indian bowlers."

The Thunder will survive. Hughes would have been competing for top-order runs with Chris Gayle and David Warner had he played in the T20 competition, while Usman Khawaja is also part of the Thunder roster. And while Hughes deserves to be commended for his decision to concentrate on his form in the longer format, the move carries plenty of risk for him.

Should he fail to impress in the Chairman's XI match and win a place in the Boxing Day Test, he will have no first-class cricket to fall back on until the beginning of February, a T20 window having been created in the domestic calendar throughout January. That means Hughes would be trying to regain his touch in grade cricket and in the nets.

Hughes, 23, has three Test hundreds to his name but his tendency to edge outside off became a fatal flaw during the New Zealand series and he will need to rectify it before he wins another chance in the Test side. Earlier this week it was announced that he would play county cricket with Worcestershire next season, where his technique will be tested.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Christopher on December 16, 2011, 11:51 GMT

    I thought it judicious to add a list of those changes & criticisms that have been levelled at Hughes game,either by the public,so-called experts or coaches.They read as follows: He scores to heavily on the offside.He should play more to the on.He should get behind the ball more.He should eschew his favourite cut & cover drives. He plays too square, he plays too fine.Hes too flashy.He should be more circumpsect like an opener.He should play straighter.He gets found out by the short ball.His techniches no good.Hes too jumpy.He should stop moving his back foot to leg.If this all sounds ugly,it damned well should & Australians should be ashamed to put their names to these statements.His back foot to leg closed his front shoulder.This put him in excellent position for offside and straight play.It also game him drive,power & timing into his shots.His closed faced grip,kept the ball on the ground,covered swing and aided flat batting & controlling short balls.These changes were forced on him.

  • Christopher on December 16, 2011, 11:41 GMT

    It should occurr to intelligent people,that players over the last 2-3 years have come into the Test side in form & fallen away drastically.This applies to virtually every cricketer in the side.It is replete with batting & bowling coaches who cant teach,fielding coaches inexplicably made part time causing a falling of standards.A head coach who lacks lucididty in the extreme,selectors who seem on another planet,physios who cant get players on the field,team doctors who tell players to give up & CA who continue to push T20 on the states while Test Cricket burns.Hence the Argus Review.Before the Ashes in 09,Hughes was a Bradman medallist,Steve Waugh medallist,Shield Player of the Year,in Wisden & had 1637 runs in 10 games with 8 100s at 96,all by 20 Y.O.Then came Nielsen who created the technique myth to justify Watsons inclusion.DeCosta made it clear that Hughes was forced to change his game by the coach while in the Test side.It ruined his game.Hence his success outside Test matches.

  • Liam on December 15, 2011, 23:43 GMT

    Regardless of what anybody thinks of his ability, there won't be any first class cricket for him to play over the next 7 weeks!

  • Christopher on December 15, 2011, 8:52 GMT

    For those who doubt Hughes talent,go to youtube and put in Hughes 115 v SA and Hughes 160 v SA. It shows Hughes against an 1100+ Test wicket attack in SA giving a masterclass. That attack was Steyn,Ntini,Morkel,Kallis & Harris.For those with powers of observation,it will be easy to see the difference in his technique from then to the 09 Ashes where he was apparently,'found out'.I continue to marvel at the ill will and lack of genuine investigation into whats taken place. Harmison wasnt in the same league. Intelligent people will know that fast bowlers of the calibre of Steyn,dont need the 500 balls they bowled at Hughes in his dual century Test match,to work him out. Its incredible to think that people still fall for that myth. Hughes technique was deliberately butchered by Nielsen to justify his original Ashes selection of Watson.DeCosta alludes to it on this site.Langer was even worse.@AidanFX & Barnsey444 are 2 of the few who have grasped this.He has 17 100s & 4 scores in the 190s.

  • Mark on December 15, 2011, 4:27 GMT

    So... someone help me out here, I'm struggling to understand this...

    The aging Simon Katich is dropped in favour of the more youthful Phillip Hughes. Since then, Hughes averages 27 in the 370-odd days since, while Katich averaged 49 in the 370-odd days before. Hmmm...

    Isn't Chris Martin older than Simon Katich, the aging Simon Katich who was replaced with the youthful Phillip Hughes, the young Hughes who became Martin's little rag-doll in the past two tests?

  • django on December 15, 2011, 3:48 GMT

    He will be back. The guy has scored too many runs in both County and domestic cricket. I agree, if you look at him bat it doesnt make sense but he can bat. When he comes back he will flay attacks near and far. He has plenty of time.

  • Steven on December 15, 2011, 2:53 GMT

    The kid can bat nearly 5500 FCr uns @48 , just needs to get his confidence and his mental game back. He will score some big runs for Australia at some point.

  • clint on December 15, 2011, 2:37 GMT

    Wrong move Hughes, you should have played the BBL and regained your confidence in slashing the ball behind point again.

  • Daniel on December 15, 2011, 2:05 GMT

    Unusual that Coverdale would say "since Simon Katich was dumped... Hughes has averaged 27.69". Hughes' 2011 average is 26.93 and his 2010 average is 28.00. Furthermore, if we exclude one match from Durban, his 2009 average is 28.14. My point is that there seems to be a lot of talk about Hughes being out of form. However, in terms of his recent performance, he is doing about as well as we should anticipate - he is performing at his average. One should not expect Hughes to perform much better than he is currently.

  • Aidan on December 15, 2011, 1:26 GMT

    @ Nerk - your summary on Hughes is about the best I've heard - for the most part people who talk about him are just repeating one another in circular fashions. "Putting the cut in the cupboard until his eye in" is a smart assessment - Hughes got caught cutting after having been dropped in the slip after they packed a ring of about 8 slips. The reality is captains can only afford to have such fields for a very short period of the game. And as Hughes gets his eye - he will be good enough to play the cut shot despite how many fielders are there. The guy needs to just worry about to play and leave as you say.

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