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Phillip Hughes earns Hilditch praise

Brydon Coverdale

March 18, 2011

Comments: 23 | Text size: A | A

Phillip Hughes plays the pull on one knee, Tasmania v New South Wales, Sheffield Shield Final, Hobart, 1st day, March 17, 2011
Phillip Hughes is ending the Australian season with a flourish © Getty Images

Australia's chairman of selectors, Andrew Hilditch, has said he is thrilled by the form of the opener Phillip Hughes, who made a century for New South Wales in the Sheffield Shield final this week. Hughes had not made a hundred for more than a year when he raised triple figures against Western Australia last week, and he has followed it with 138 in the biggest match of the domestic calendar.

That return to form might give Hilditch's panel pause for thought when they choose the squad for Australia's next Test series for a tour of Sri Lanka in August. Until he tore his Achilles tendon and made way for Hughes mid-Ashes, Simon Katich was the incumbent opener alongside Shane Watson, but he turns 36 in August and could face pressure from the 22-year-old Hughes to retain his place.

"We want all those players scoring runs," Hilditch said. "If it's a tough decision for us, it's a good thing for Australian cricket. I was thrilled for Phil, I think he turned the corner the last game. I spent a bit of time with him before the last Shield game and he seemed to be in a really good place. Having had a tough season, to emerge like he has is a credit to him."

Hughes played the final three Ashes Tests over the summer but his best score was 31, and he struggled to show any better form in the Sheffield Shield. However, he wasn't alone in that regard - the highest run scorer before the Sheffield Shield final was Rob Quiney with 724, a long way down from the four-figure tallies that leading batsmen usually score.

It's a trend that has worried the Australia captain Ricky Ponting, who has questioned the techniques of some of the younger batsmen on the domestic scene. Ponting said when he was starting out a player wouldn't have been considered for Test selection unless he was averaging around 60, but Hilditch said having watched plenty of games this year, he didn't share Ponting's concerns.

"A lot of people are saying that," he said. "Because I've seen so much Shield cricket [I know] it's been an unusual year. Probably at least three wickets around the country have been particularly bowler-friendly. There's always been the odd wicket that has been like that. It's been tough conditions for batters.

"I think in the end that will be a good thing for Australian cricket, because rather than playing on flat tracks they've had to play on very difficult tracks. I think their techniques will improve the more they have to do that. It's probably been a good thing. We haven't seen this year the thousand-plus runs that we used to always see but the conditions have been a lot harder, so I'm not reading too much into it."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by Online on (March 21, 2011, 22:29 GMT)

Australia's test squad that should be sent to Sri Lanka in August should be:

1. Phillip Hughes (vice captain) 2. Nic Maddinson 3. Usman Khawaja 4. Phil Jacques 5. Shane Watson (captain) 6. Steven Smith 7. Mathew Wade 8. Nathan Hauritz 9. Mark Cameron 10. Patrick Cummins 11. Trent Copeland 12. Peter George 13. Steve O'Keefe 14. David Warner 15. Tim Paine 16. Michael Beer

This is the FUTURE of Australian cricket. Katich, Ponting, Hussey, despite being faithful servants to Australia cricket over the years must make way. Michael Clarke needs to go back and churn runs in Shield cricket to prove he has gotton over his form slump. I hope Hilditch is heading in this direction by praising Hughes in this article. Shane Watson is cpatain and Phil Hughes is vice captain.

Posted by Online on (March 21, 2011, 22:17 GMT)

@gjando What are you on about mate? In cricket, no-one cares what technique or temperament you have as long as you're scoring runs; Hughes hit two tons, one fifty, and one ninety in his last four innings and averages 50 in first class cricket, and 56 for NSW. Ed Cowan averages 37. Cowan will never play test cricket for Australia and rightly so; who cares what technique you have if you are so inconsistent to average 37. Likewise please don't suggest Shaun Marsh, Bailey, etc. Averaging 50 in first class cricket should be a requirement and Hughes has the best FC average among all openers in Australia domestic cricket. Now I'm not supporting Hilditch but how on Earth does Hughes not have the temparement and technique to suceed in test cricket? He has scored two back-to-back tons against the world's best bowling attack and is the youngest in history to do so. That's enough to say he will be a test cricket LEGEND. Period. Cowan is 30 and will not play a part in Australia's test future EVER.

Posted by Gary on (March 21, 2011, 7:42 GMT)

Pure and simple, Hughes does not have the technique or temperament for test cricket. Interestingly, we have seen in the Shield Final an opener with one of the best techniques and temperaments in the domestic game win the player of the final, Ed Cowan.

I see the Australia A provisional squad for the tour of Zimbabwe was named on March 16th and amazingly, Ed Cowan was not named...clearly he has been Hilditched:)

Posted by John on (March 20, 2011, 10:43 GMT)

@landl, have you been watching Hughes bat this match? During the Ashes you could see Hughes' technique gradually improving as he worked more and more on it. The results of that work have come to fruition in this match - those watching were treated to a far superior and tighter technique. Phil Hughes 2.0. Amazing what a few little things can do for a batsman.

Posted by david on (March 19, 2011, 8:16 GMT)

Hughes is a great yound crciketer. Should be in the Australia's team in a few years maybe sooner because australia's test crciket is becoming dreadful. He has a great work load and I think he should be the opener with watson.

Posted by David on (March 19, 2011, 5:44 GMT)

Yeh, Hilditch knows a goodin' when he sees one - NOT. And @Moomin - your statement re the future of Australia's test cricket simply proves that you know nothing about Australian cricket. There are some pretenders in the current side, but the standard at state level is as strong as I've ever seen it (and unlike you, I've been watching it for almost 50 years).

Posted by Cameron on (March 19, 2011, 3:55 GMT)

Moomin_Chanderpaul: not as "horrified" as what India's fan's in all forms of cricket must be: especially a test team with with no pace attack to speak of & probably the oldest top order in the game. A big slide quickly down the rankings looms large... Meanwhile, Australia will go on rebuilding with our proven resources. We will be back in time. What about India though? Not so sure about that. Your golden age (or should I say, months) are pretty much done.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 19, 2011, 2:38 GMT)

@ Moomin - Being Australian, yes i am horrified, but at the same time, there are australians who got bored of watching australia win 5 day tests on day 3.

That said, the domestic scene is more suited to the big bash, too many young players are focusing on 20/20 which is all about slogging, and with bowling, its about bowling for containment, there is no one i have seen who is batting with patience, or bowling, so its a little refreshing to see someone like Kreija bowl aggresively, even though he isnt the best spinner, he potentially can be given the right tools and training.

I still think Hughes isnt good enough yet, he's always come into the Aus team on good domestic form, and he gets found out. That said, because of the nature of batting, australia continue to do well in the short game, but a huge amount of work is needed at the longer game, and it can start by giving the young kids the patience needed - Give a spinner a chance, rather then dropping them after a game or 2

Posted by gordo on (March 19, 2011, 1:39 GMT)

@azzaman3 yeah it is hard to believe he watches any state cricket. It seems like he's starting do more as a selector since the overview of australian cricket. With this comment and the comment on tait

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 19, 2011, 1:11 GMT)

Just slightly overstated there Moomin ... Yes they had a shocking Ashes series, but to truly merit the 'terrible at test cricket' status you've conferred they'd have to be on par with Pak, WI, Bangla, et al, which, even in transition, they aren't ... Likewise, Katich and Watto deserve far more respect than you've given ... Nice to see Hughsey's come right! The future is actually quite promising!! Cheers

Posted by John on (March 19, 2011, 0:33 GMT)

@Moomin_Chanderpaul, if you were actually watching his innings you'd realise how much work Hughes has already put into his game and how hard he continues to work on it. His worth ethic is wonderful for someone who is already naturally talented. As an Australian fan I can say I'm not at all "horrified" about the future of our test side. Watson is simply the MVP of any team in the world right now, contributing with bat and ball nearly every match. Katich, while he is probably too old now to be considered, was a WONDERFUL opening batsman (statistically one of the best), and we've got loads of talented and successful youngsters coming up through the ranks. Honestly most of the Aussie-bashing that goes on is entirely down to jealous fervour, because fans of other countries see the "demise" of Australian cricket as the only hope for their supported country. The ultimate tall poppy syndrome. Kind of sad to see to be honest.

Posted by Ashwin on (March 19, 2011, 0:29 GMT)

hughes always does well in domestic and when he plays for aus he is an epic fail nothin new here wats hilditch on about looks like he has never seen domestic cricket hughes has been given so man chances but he keeps failing give Shaun marsh a chance

Posted by Rajaram on (March 19, 2011, 0:16 GMT)

I suggest we retain Simon Katich for the Sri Lanka,South Africa and India series in August,September and December this year. Hughes should be selected as back-up opener, and should be the main opener for the 2013 Ashes in England. That's where he will really prove that he has got over his flashy technique.

Posted by Andrew on (March 18, 2011, 23:47 GMT)

@Moomin_Chanderpaul - to the contrary matey, there is a massive future just around the corner for Oz. Loads of talent being brought through. Its just a matter of WHEN to introduce them, & HOW they are integrated into the Test structure. @ Something_Witty - re: Hilditch - kiss of death????? Not laughing!

Posted by Christopher on (March 18, 2011, 23:30 GMT)

Hilditch praising Hughes after his appalling coaching and selection treatment.Sutherlands photo opportunity with the state winners who werent being selected for their country.3 staggeringly bad years of selection,coaching and administration.Hilditch being given 4-6 months to try and right their ship-not the countrys.Thats incidental.Hmmm.I think i see a pattern emerging.There wouldnt be a semi independent revue into their performance coming, would there?Something to make them-whats that blasphemous word again-oh yes,accountable.I think they all just got religion.I bet this period before the revue involves the only professionalism of their entire tenure.Too cynical?I doubt it.

Posted by Christopher on (March 18, 2011, 23:21 GMT)

@Moomin_Chanderpaul,i strongly disagree with many of your sentiments.The high probability remains that as unusual as his technique was,had Hughes been allowed to continue playing in his own style,without interference from the coaching staff and team leaders,that his success would have continued at the same high standard.He had already built up an enviable record in australia,sth africa and england.While offside play predominated,he still scored through and over the leg side,particularly against spin of which he appeared a master.Nielsen made it clear that Watson had been expected to open all along.Suddenly we find Hughes playing differently to his usual style and of course,failing.He fell once in test cricket to that so called weakness.The first ashes test 2009 where he made 36.I expect at the finish of his career that he will be considered one of the greats.The coaches,selectors and administrators are what horrify the fans.Pick on merit.Drop when not performing.How hard is that?

Posted by Daniel on (March 18, 2011, 23:21 GMT)

In the same match (Shield Final), Katich made 96 batting at number 5, which is exactly where he should be batting for Australia - 5 or 6. Our late middle order is terrible at the moment; having Katich in that position would boost it considerably. Batting Katich at 5 would also mean if his reflexes do slow a little with age it won't be so much of a factor. Plus, if he isn't opening the batting he can do more bowling!

Posted by Christopher on (March 18, 2011, 23:01 GMT)

I look forward with great anticipation to the day that Phillip Hughes can speak openly about what took place at the start of the 2009 ashes tour.Coming into the tour,he had 415 runs at 68 including twin hundreds against the worlds best attack and a first class average over 60.He opened with hundreds in his first 3 games for middlesex.There cannot be an intelligent cricket observer who would give credit to the idea that the worlds most professional bowlers hadnt thought of bowling short or around the wicket at an attacking opening batsmen.A fast bowlers first instinct is to attack the body and use intimidation-particularly ones as good as Steyn.A thinking man would deem that he faced every kind of delivery on a regular basis and triumphed.For all those who claim that he was"found out",i suggest that you ask why his style and technique were different for the opening tour match and tests,to that which he employed so successfully everywhere else.Someone forced that change.I wonder who.

Posted by Christopher on (March 18, 2011, 22:40 GMT)

I agree with both your sentiments @azzaman333 and @Something_Witty.Im convinced that Jack Clarkes' motive in extending Hilditches' contract is to allow an extra 4-6 months to gain some kind of credit before the revue.Clarke,Sutherland,Nielsen and Ponting are all tied together.Nothing they have said in 3 years has been either truthful or correct and the performances have been staggeringly bad.This week,Jack Clarke said he thought our cricket wasnt in that bad a state and hes in charge.Sutherland went for the photo opportunity at the state awards with guys who werent being picked.These men have no interest in australian cricket at all and their actions smack of self preservation.Only a few weeks ago,they described australian state cricket as not being a suitable guide to form and australian candidates.What a travesty to then have them in charge of it.How can state batsmen be expected to perform when there is no intelligent path to the test side and runs and wickets seem irrelevent.

Posted by John on (March 18, 2011, 22:05 GMT)

Hughes is a good striker of the ball, but unless he learns to play with a straight bat he won't get runs consistently against top test teams. Still, Australia has so little young talent coming up that they must be hoping he will make the grade.

Posted by Aaron on (March 18, 2011, 18:11 GMT)

Is it just me, or is it hard to believe Hilditch when he says he's seen so much shield cricket? It never seemed to be high on his priority list...

Posted by John on (March 18, 2011, 15:33 GMT)

At last Hilditch praises up someone who actually DESERVES it. It would be a travesty if Hughesy wasn't opening for us against SL, especially now that his technique has developed so well.

Posted by rob on (March 18, 2011, 15:31 GMT)

Australia are terrible at test cricket, they were utterly appalling in the ashes. Hughes has an unbelievable amount of work to do on his game before he should even be considered! Katich is past it and was never that great anyway. Watson just collects 50's. Aus still have a good one day team, but their fans must be horrified about the future of their test team.

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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