Michael Hussey will not get his desired ODI farewell at least partly to keep Usman Khawaja and Phillip Hughes away from the Twenty20 Big Bash League ahead of the India tour, the national selector John Inverarity has admitted.
Inverarity unveiled a curious squad for the first two matches of the limited-overs series against Sri Lanka on Sunday, captained by George Bailey while Brad Haddin resumes as the ODI gloveman in order to allow rest for Michael Clarke and Matthew Wade. David Warner has also been given time off after playing all formats for the past year.
Aaron Finch was rewarded for a compelling limited-overs summer so far while Ben Cutting has returned to the national squad for the first time since he was 12th man for the first Test match of last summer. Hussey's omission despite indicating a desire to play a final round of limited-overs games before he exited the international stage was notable, and Inverarity said the the call was made with an eye on the 2015 World Cup but also the India Test tour that begins in February.
"Our intention before two weeks ago was to give Michael a break during the Sri Lankan series and then have him refreshed and ready to come back into the ODIs against the West Indies and then off to India," Inverarity said. "Of course things changed a bit last week. We've talked it over with Mike but the overriding fact is what's best for Australian cricket and we move forward.
"We're very mindful of the 2015 World Cup and we think these ODIs are very important in terms of players like Usman Khawaja and Phillip Hughes and others having the opportunity being within the team and being in the ODI side rather than playing Big Bash League cricket partly as an opportunity for India for those who are selected. So I think we need to use those places for the future of Australian cricket.
"I think we have picked a particularly exciting side. Aaron Finch, and a lot of you have seen him play, there are not many more exciting players than Aaron. When he gets runs he gets them in quite spectacular fashion. Ben Cutting too. I think this is a very very attractive side. How will we know about the best players of the future if opportunity is not invested in them?"
Australia's coach Mickey Arthur had used the term quarantine after the Hobart match when explaining why members of the national squad were not being handed over to their BBL teams in between Tests. There is real concern among the coaches and selectors that a lack of first-class cricket through such a large chunk of the season is harming the development and preparation of both current and potential international players.
Haddin's return to the team ahead of the younger Tim Paine meanwhile provided a reminder that the selectors still valued the New South Welshman's experience. Inverarity said that Haddin remained the back-up Test wicketkeeper also, and that he would tour should the panel choose two glovemen for India or the Ashes tour of England.
"We're of the view that the two best wicketkeeper-batsmen are Matthew Wade and Brad Haddin. If something happened to Matthew than Brad Haddin would come into the side," Inverarity said. "We may or may not take two keepers to India and/or England. At this stage, our firm intention is if we take two it'll be Matthew Wade and Brad Haddin.
"Matthew's a very talented cricketer, very talented keeper and batsman, he's young and we think he'll get better and better and this has been the history of Australian cricket, we go back to Rod Marsh starting in 1970-71 and he and Ian Healy and others improved remarkably over the first couple of years. So we are certainly looking towards Matthew to improve, I think he's keeping well, he's got good skills and he'll get better as time goes on."
Another on something of a Test trial over the next month will be the allrounder Glenn Maxwell, who was 12th man for the Sydney Test. Inverarity said he was hopeful that Maxwell's progress as a cricketer and a spin bowler would gain in momentum.
"We're certainly hoping Glenn Maxwell develops as a batting all-rounder who bowls decent off-spin," Inverarity said. "He's a very talented played who we think is likely to improve on a fairly steep incline. We were close to playing him [in Sydney] - It was a close decision - but we thought the best side for this game was the side we put out."
ODI squad George Bailey (capt), Phillip Hughes, Usman Khawaja, Aaron Finch, David Hussey, Brad Haddin (wk), Glenn Maxwell, Steven Smith, Mitchell Johnson, Ben Cutting, Mitchell Starc, Clint McKay, Xavier Doherty.