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December 23, 2008
Australia's selectors hope Brett Lee and Matthew Hayden will continue to be part of their plans for the Ashes despite both men spluttering since the tour of India. The senior players were retained for the Boxing Day Test on Friday, but their futures have been clouded by low returns and their lack of contributions during the record-breaking defeat to South Africa on Sunday.
"The expectation is that Brett will play," Andrew Hilditch, the chairman of selectors, told AAP. "As far as the long-term future is concerned, we see all the senior players, including Brett, as critical to our rebuilding phase. We'll be very reluctant to look at younger players who we bring in as being under significant pressure."
Hilditch said he was "reasonably happy" with the way Lee bowled in Perth and he didn't believe the fast bowler was nearing retirement. "We don't think Brett's at that stage, he's a really fit person, he's got a perfect fast bowling build, I'm told by all the specialists, and most think with the right core strength and conditioning programs he can actually bowl faster," he said. "So that's going to be the key over the next six months before the Ashes."
Despite the second Test being only a few days away, Hilditch also spoke about Hayden in terms of the Ashes trip. "We haven't had any of those discussions [about retirement]," he said. "The only discussions go back a long time ago, which was made quite clear that our plans were we'd like him to get through to the end of the Ashes, which we see as critical. He's one of those players we'd not want to lose before the Ashes."
Hilditch said Hayden, who has scored 48 runs in three Tests, was going through a "rough time". "We've just got to back our judgment and our judgment looking at him in the nets, looking at the way he's moving, the way he's catching, there's no indications that he's not just around the corner from a big score," he said. "I wouldn't mind backing him for a big score in the Boxing Day Test."
Australia have brought in Nathan Hauritz and Ben Hilfenhaus for the game in Melbourne and there will be more changes before the match. Peter Siddle, who played his second Test in Perth, is also in the 13-man squad.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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It's close to inexplicable how India's best spinner is being left out in favour of bits-and-pieces players