The push of Brett Lee and Stuart Clark to regain their Test spots at the Gabba could be in vain after Andrew Hilditch, the chairman of selectors, indicated Australia's three younger bowlers would remain the panel's preferred option. Australia's decision makers are already looking ahead to next year's Ashes series and will use the Tests against West Indies and Pakistan to groom the side for the attempt at regaining the urn.
That means Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus will have the inside running, leaving Lee and Clark to hope for the next berth whenever the side goes with a four-man pace attack. There is always a chance of that formation being used at the Gabba, which hosts the first match against the West Indies from November 26, but Hilditch does not see any changes to the pecking order.
"It's going to take something pretty special for Brett Lee or Stuart Clark to force their way in for a variety of reasons," he told the Australian. "The situation has pretty much remained as is. Those three bowlers were the leading wicket-takers in the Ashes. One [Johnson] has just been named international cricketer of the year, Hilfenhaus was the bowler of the Ashes and Peter Siddle was the young cricketer of the year."
Despite their success they were unable to prevent Australia from losing the series and Johnson's performances in the two defeats at Lord's and The Oval were particularly costly. Hilditch said Lee and Clark remained "very good" bowlers".
"Brett has been one of our very best," he said. "It's up to him to get back to four-day cricket and demonstrate a case to get back in." Lee has suffered in 2009 with a recovery from ankle surgery, a side strain and now an elbow problem that means he must prove his fitness for New South Wales.
While the attack appears settled, with Siddle expected to start bowling next week after a minor side strain, the batting order is less predictable. There has been a big push for the opener Phillip Hughes to return to the team, but Michael Hussey's strong performances in India have almost certainly secured his spot at the Gabba.
Shane Watson replaced Hughes during the Ashes and has been told by Hilditch to remain flexible as the selectors try to find a way back in for the 20-year-old. ''As far as Phil Hughes is concerned, I've made it very clear that he is a long-term player," Hilditch told the Sydney Morning Herald. "He is certainly in the running, we've been watching how he's been going in the Sheffield Shield … He is going to be strongly considered for the first Test.''