Brad Hogg could become the oldest man ever to play a Twenty20 international after being called up along with fellow veteran Brad Hodge for Australia's World Twenty20 campaign in Bangladesh. Australia's selectors opted for experience in their 15-man squad, which also includes Brad Haddin and Cameron White, although the young legspinner James Muirhead was also named after impressing in his first T20 internationals against England this summer.
Hogg earned a surprise recall for the previous World T20 in Sri Lanka in 2012 but he had not played for Australia since that tournament. However, he has continued to take wickets and keep the runs tight for the Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash League and his selection at the age of 43 has shown that the selectors are prepared to bank on experience as Australia push for their first title in the shortest format.
The oldest man ever to play a T20 international was Kenya's Steve Tikolo, who was 42 when he walked out against Canada in Sharjah in November. Hogg turned 43 last week but showed as part of the Scorchers' BBL-winning team that he remains enthusiastic and athletic in the field as well as canny with the ball. He could be a key player in the spinning conditions of Bangladesh.
The same can be said of Hodge, who at 39 was recalled to Australia's team for the T20s against England this season having not played for his country for nearly six years. Although Hodge's BBL form this summer was solid rather than spectacular - he scored 219 runs at 36.50 - he is the highest run scorer of all time in Twenty20 cricket, with 5902 runs, and his experience in Bangladesh with the Barisal Burners could be invaluable.
"We have selected a squad that has plenty of experience playing the Twenty20 format in the sub-continent, which augers well for the challenges of Bangladesh," national selector John Inverarity said. "Brad Hogg comes into the squad . Once again Brad bowled very well for the Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash League and many batsmen found him difficult to read. Despite his age, his enthusiasm and fitness are undiminished.
"Brad Hodge has made a great number of Twenty20 runs on the sub-continent and played many match defining innings there. He will provide the squad with a great deal of calm experience and knowledge. His inclusion is just reward for his outstanding performances in this form of the game over many seasons."
Muirhead, 20, is the least experienced member of the group, and perhaps the most remarkable part of his journey was that he did not even start the BBL season with a contract. Muirhead was only included in the Melbourne Stars squad as an injury replacement before Christmas, but his impressive performances in a number of tour matches earlier in the summer against England encouraged the selectors to take a punt on him in the T20 internationals.
"The national selection panel was pleased with the way the side performed in those Twenty20 matches where they played with great confidence and authority," Inverarity said. "Of those performances we were highly impressed with James Muirhead who displayed a good temperament, excellent control and a legbreak that turns significantly. He is an exciting inclusion."
Although Muirhead took two wickets in the final T20 in Sydney, his most impressive display was arguably in the second match in Melbourne, when he kept the runs tight and claimed 1 for 17 from his four overs. In front of a crowd of nearly 65,000 at the MCG, Muirhead showed his willingness to toss the ball up and risk leaking a few boundaries, and his legbreak turned sharply at times.
"It was definitely really daunting, especially in front of 65,000 at that game," Muirhead told ESPNcricinfo last week. "Bowling legspin you just really have to have confidence and believe in yourself and you know you can perform at that level. You just try and take in the crowd and relish the moment and enjoy yourself. You're going to get hit for a few sixes or a few boundaries bowling legspin in T20, so you can't put yourself down, you've just got to keep fighting against them."
Muirhead's inclusion meant there was no room for Xavier Doherty, with Glenn Maxwell the other slow-bowling option in the group. Shaun Marsh was also overlooked, as was the young Queensland batsman Chris Lynn, who performed well in his initial T20 internationals over the past month, and neither Josh Hazlewood nor Ben Cutting were able to squeeze in to the attack.
Because several key players were already in South Africa preparing for the Test tour while the T20s against England were played recently, the squad looks different from that group. David Warner, Shane Watson, Mitchell Johnson and Brad Haddin will all be part of the World T20 outfit after not taking part in the 3-0 success over England.
The inclusion of Haddin, who has played only two T20 internationals in the past two and a half years and in fact retired from the format in 2011, meant there was no room for Matthew Wade, who has generally been used as Australia's keeper in the short format. James Faulkner was included after missing the Test tour of South Africa due to a knee injury, although it remains to be seen whether he will play in the T20s in South Africa that follow the Tests.
"James Faulkner is recovering well from his knee surgery," Inverarity said. "He is expected to be fully fit for Bangladesh. We will monitor his rehabilitation to see how he is progressing for the matches in South Africa."
White managed to hold his place after performing well against England, although whether he will be able to squeeze into the top order is unclear, with Aaron Finch, Watson and Warner all potential openers. Allrounder Daniel Christian and fast bowlers Nathan Coulter-Nile and Mitchell Starc will also be part of the squad, which will be led by George Bailey.
Australia World T20 squad George Bailey (capt), Daniel Christian, Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, Brad Haddin, Brad Hodge, Brad Hogg, Glenn Maxwell, James Muirhead, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, David Warner, Shane Watson, Cameron White.