Australia's selectors are not yet prepared to give up on Ben Hilfenhaus following an inglorious Ashes summer and still regard him as a senior member of the Test attack, Greg Chappell has said.
Hilfenhaus was chosen for the Australia A tour of Zimbabwe to take place in June, with the dual intentions of giving him some work ahead of Test tours to Sri Lanka and South Africa and also using him as a mentor for young quicks including Mitchell Starc, James Faulkner and Trent Copeland.
The presence of swing and seam merchants like Copeland, Faulkner and Luke Butterworth can also be viewed as a reminder that others may yet be called on to do Hilfenhaus' job with the new ball.
"I think everyone, including Ben, was disappointed with his form in the summer, but we're pretty confident he's still got a lot to offer," Chappell, a national selector, told ESPNcricinfo. "And the fact that he's a senior player [helps]. I was with the Australia A team up in Townsville and Ben was there, and the work he did with Mitchell Starc and some of the other young pace bowlers was excellent, so the opportunity is there to have him get some bowling and spend some time with two or three young bowlers.
"He's a pretty solid citizen to have around the group and it helps him continue his build-up towards the various tours and series we've got coming up in the next few months. As we know pace bowling is fraught with danger and you need a handful of them up and about. You can't afford just to rely on two or three or four to get you through the domestic season, let alone a couple of the toughest tours we could envisage at the moment."
In 2009 Hilfenhaus was one of the selectors' few genuine success stories of recent times, forming a key part of the pace ensemble in South Africa before emerging as the most incisive and reliable member of the attack during the Ashes tour of England. However a subsequent serious knee injury, after he was unwisely taken on a limited-overs tour of India despite complaining of soreness, robbed Hilfenhaus of a follow-up home summer, and he could not recapture his earlier form when fit again.
He was guilty of rum luck during two Tests against India when he posed numerous problems for the home batsmen in unhelpful conditions, but against England could gain neither swing nor sustained rhythm. Andrew Strauss was a victim in the first over of the series, but Hilfenhaus could only claim six more in four matches. With each Test he became less of a threat as Alistair Cook and Strauss ground him into submission on hard pitches.
Recalling the threat posed by Hilfenhaus during the 2009 Ashes, Chappell argued he could yet return to that level.
"We believe he's still got that capability and the more cricket we can give him at the moment the better it will be for him to get back to where we'd all like to see him," Chappell said.