New South Wales excited by young talent
The absence of key players could herald a new era for New South Wales, who will bank upon young talent to continue the success from the 2007-08 season, when they won the Pura Cup. Simon Katich, the team captain, feels the line-up is settled even without him, Brad Haddin and Doug Bollinger, all of whom will be touring India with the national side in October-November.
"We expect Mark Cameron and Nathan Bracken to open the attack and, with Doug Bollinger away, someone else will try to take that other bowling opportunity," Katich told the Sydney Morning Herald. "Our attack will be fine, as will our batting.
"Last year Phil Hughes did extremely well, Peter Forrest had a good season, and guys like Usman Khawaja, Steven Smith and Moises Henriques got opportunities. Greg Mail and Ed Cowan will also push for spots. There's going to be good rivalry and batsmen who make runs early will be in the best position."
Katich said the winning experience in last year's Pura Cup, now the Sheffield Shield, will help the up-and-coming players. "They've got some experience under their belts, have spent time in the squad, and I think it will be time for them to push on and show what they can do," he said. "There's no doubt they've got the ability, it's just about having that belief that they can do it at the next level."
David Gilbert, the Cricket New South Wales chief executive, was thrilled with the advent of younger players, especially Hughes and Forrest, both of whom are in India with the Australia A squad. "It's probably one of our most exciting eras of young guys coming through since the 1980s, when the Waugh brothers [Steve and Mark] and Mark Taylor emerged," Gilbert said. "Phil Hughes is proof of that. At this time last year, he was still finishing school commitments - and here he is on an Australia A trip."
Hughes earned his place in the Australia A side after only nine first-class games. He got a rookie deal with New South Wales last year after he scored 387 runs at 96.75 for Australia Under-19s in five matches against Pakistan Under-19s and followed it up with a good showing in the Emerging Players Tournament. In seven first-class matches for New South Wales last season, Hughes scored 559 runs at 62.11 and, at 19, became the youngest centurion in a Sheffield Shield final.
"The [Australia A] selection was also good news for Peter Forrest," Gilbert said. "He did good things for about two years and fell away a bit late last season. But at the Centre of Excellence in Brisbane he's done very well lately. So I guess his selection was based on what he achieved over the winter up there. He's a very determined bloke.
"We're probably not going to see much of Simon Katich and Doug Bollinger this year and that's where it will be interesting to see how the likes of Hughes, Forrest, Steven Smith, Usman Khawaja, Moises Henriques and others go. With the 2009 Ashes tour on the horizon the performances of many of these players will be closely monitored by the national selectors."