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April 24, 2013
Brad Haddin and Chris Rogers are the hardened campaigners identified to unify Australia's Ashes tourists, while the young allrounder James Faulkner's inclusion in the squad for England has intensified pressure on Shane Watson to earn his place ahead of the series.
In a touring party constructed sensibly for the present moment rather than speculatively for the future, Haddin was confirmed as Australia's vice-captain for the Ashes tour, while the 35-year-old opener Rogers rocketed back into Test contention five years after his only match in the baggy green.
Rogers and Haddin added a valuable element of experience and leadership to the 16-man squad, qualities so often lacking on a horrid India tour earlier this year following the retirements of Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey. John Inverarity, the national selector, left the captain Michael Clarke and the coach Mickey Arthur to devise the batting order, but Rogers appears likely to claim a top-order spot, perhaps as No. 3 behind David Warner and Ed Cowan.
"From the players available we believe Chris Rogers was very deserving of selection," Inverarity said. "We selected seven batsmen and we believe he was one who came into that slot, the other six all went to India.
"With Michael and Ricky going there was a gap in experience, and Chris nicely fills that - he's made nearly 20,000 first-class runs. The first Test starts in 11 weeks' time, there's a lot of water to go under the bridge, but Michael as captain and Mickey Arthur as coach in particular will sort that out with batting order and which of the seven are selected. Michael and I have no concerns about any of those batsmen batting anywhere in the top six.
"We're always very mindful of looking forward and selecting accordingly at times, but quite obviously this time it had always been our intention to revert to getting the absolute strongest side for this contest, that's been uppermost in our minds and that's the way we've selected."
Clarke expressed satisfaction that the squad chosen had an ideal balance of players young and old, in keeping with the profiles of successful teams he had observed or been a part of in the past.
"The best teams I've seen in any sport have a good mix of youth and experience. I think this squad has that mix," Clarke said. "I'm confident we have a good group of players that can learn from one another as well as utilise the coaches that we have.
"If you look through a lot of players' careers you go through ups and downs, you have tough tours and that makes you a better player and a stronger person, and I believe we've learned a lot from India, as individuals but also as a team. We're going to be playing in a lot different conditions to what we faced in India, against a completely different opposition, and I have faith that with the learning and experience of India, we'll have success in England."
Faulkner's inclusion added fire and versatility to the squad, illustrated by a past summer in which the Tasmanian showed both the nerve to sledge Chris Gayle and the composure to guide the Tigers to the Sheffield Shield. Inverarity described Faulkner as the sort of player who "gets things done", a phrase that cannot have escaped the attention of Watson, who will be expected to score heavily in the warm-up matches in Taunton and Worcester to retain his place.
"James Faulkner has impressed us all in recent months and recent seasons," Inverarity said. "He's a very competitive cricketer who gets things done - he's never long out of the game. His batting has improved significantly, he's made runs, he's formed partnerships and he's always lurking and taking a wicket."
While the India tourists Mitchell Johnson, Glenn Maxwell, Xavier Doherty and Moises Henriques were unsurprisingly left out, Steven Smith was the most unfortunate casualty, having made doughty runs in each of the final two Tests. However it was felt that Rogers and Usman Khawaja provided better batting options in England. Smith had to be content with a place as vice-captain on the Australia A tour that precedes the Ashes.
Jackson Bird returned to national duty after leaving the Indian tour due to injury and Ryan Harris was also recalled, having missed most of the Australian home summer as he recovered from shoulder surgery. Peter Siddle, James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc completed a muscular pace quintet.
The incumbent Test wicketkeeper Matthew Wade was named in the squad, but Inverarity said the intention was for the new vice-captain, Haddin, to be the first-choice gloveman.
"In regards to the vice-captaincy, we feel it's important to have a senior, seasoned player support Michael at this time," Inverarity said. "When Shane Watson advised of his decision to stand down, the NSP viewed Brad as the exceptional candidate to step into this leadership void. Matthew Wade is a very good cricketer and remains central to our plans for the future."
The selectors also announced an Australia A squad to play in England ahead of the Ashes and including several of the team's frontline bowlers with the aim of giving them as much time as possible to adjust to the English conditions. Haddin will captain the A team, which includes Nathan Lyon, the only spinner in the Ashes squad, as well as the slow left-armer Ashton Agar. Inverarity said the legspinner Fawad Ahmed, who is unlikely to be eligible to play for Australia until near the end of the Ashes series, was still in Ashes contention.
"Fawad Ahmed, those of us who have seen him bowl have been very impressed with him," Inverarity said. "He's a very good legspinner and yes he does remain in contention. We've selected 16 players and we state now that should the need arise we will add to the squad. We don't know when he's going to become eligible, but there's always that possibility."
Ashes squad Michael Clarke (capt), Brad Haddin (vice-capt, wk), David Warner, Ed Cowan, Phillip Hughes, Shane Watson, Usman Khawaja, Chris Rogers, Matthew Wade (wk), James Faulkner, Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Jackson Bird.
Australia A squad Brad Haddin (capt), Steven Smith (vice-capt), Ashton Agar, Jackson Bird, Alex Doolan, Ryan Harris, Moises Henriques, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Nic Maddinson, James Pattinson, Chadd Sayers, Peter Siddle, Jordan Silk.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
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