Katich better for time out of team
Simon Katich says he has no hard feelings towards the Australia selectors after spending nearly two and a half years out of the Test side. Katich finally earned his recall in a 15-man squad to tour the West Indies following a record-breaking domestic summer during which he made 1506 Pura Cup runs at 94.12.
It might take an injury to one of the established top six for Katich to play his first Test since late 2005, however he is just pleased to be back in the mix. "The last time I was dropped I knew I deserved to be," Katich told the Sydney Morning Herald. "I wasn't playing well enough. I had a poor Ashes series and I was bitterly disappointed.
"I do know my game a lot better now. I have experienced a lot in that time. Having been in and out of the team has taught me a lot of lessons. This time around I probably appreciate it a lot more. I know that the older you get, the more you realise that you just never know when the end is near."
Despite his outstanding year Katich was still surprised to receive the call, given the quality of players in the Test frame in recent years. It is fair to say he was not half as shocked as his New South Wales team-mate Beau Casson. The left-arm wrist-spinner moved from Perth to Sydney last season and struggled with a shoulder injury, collecting seven wickets at 72 before improving in 2007-08 and being chosen as the back-up for Stuart MacGill in the Caribbean.
"I'm a little bit hazy," Casson said while sitting beside Katich and Michael Clarke, Australia's vice-captain, at an SCG press conference after the announcement. "I feel on cloud nine. I'm not sure if it's actually real. Just sitting next to those guys was a huge thrill. I idolise those guys."
Casson said he had taken a little while to settle in at New South Wales but was now confident with where his cricket was heading. "In the first year in a team, you are a little bit timid, not showing your full personality and lacking self-belief," Casson said.
"But it's been great with Simon [Katich], he has given me a chance and given me the confidence to be Beau Casson. My girlfriend has made it incredibly easy for me. It's been a fantastic ride. I was down in the dumps last year with the shoulder and Sally kept me up through all the down times."
The same elation was not so evident when Ashley Noffke reacted to his inclusion in the Test squad. Although he was pleased to take another step towards a baggy green that eluded him during the 2001 Ashes tour and his 2003 trip to the Caribbean, Noffke had other things on his mind when the team was announced and he spoke to the media outside a hospital on Queensland's Sunshine Coast.
"My three-year-old daughter Breanna was going in to get her tonsils out this morning so the focus was on that really and how she was going to react," Noffke told AAP. "I didn't even know when it was being selected. It was a pretty traumatic thing for her to go through. Even though it is minor in the scheme of things I didn't really enjoy today very much."
After collecting a sensational double of 51 wickets at 19.03 and 741 runs at 46.31 in the Pura Cup, Noffke is likely to be Australia's first-choice reserve fast man in the West Indies. That means Ben Hilfenhaus, who was also picked, is unlikely to see any Test action. But after a summer that brought a disappointing 28 wickets at 43.82, the Cricket Australia-contracted swing bowler was simply pleased to be considered.
"It shocked me at first, and probably still is," Hilfenhaus said in the Mercury. "I thought I would spend the winter playing some golf and working out in the gym. It's obviously a real buzz. It tells me the selectors have real faith in me."