Michael Hussey has not given up hope of Andrew Symonds joining Australia's tour of India, although he concedes the team is still "up in the air" just two weeks before the squad departs. Australia consider a Test trip to India the toughest challenge in world cricket and several senior players have had less-than-ideal preparation for the four-Test tour.
While Hussey was grinding out half-centuries against Bangladesh in Darwin, where he was the Player of the Series, Symonds was pondering his future and Brett Lee was in Sydney dealing with the break-up of his marriage. Ricky Ponting was also absent as he continued his recovery from wrist surgery and Matthew Hayden was nursing an ongoing Achilles tendon problem.
"We're pretty much up in the air at the moment," Hussey said. "We're certainly not settled on anything. Luckily for us, the experienced players that can come back in to the team, such as Ponting, Hayden, Symonds, Lee, they know their games very well.
"They've got a lot of experience, they've played well in India before, whether it be one-day cricket or Test cricket and so I don't think it'll take them too long. We're going to have two practice games plus I'm sure they'll be able to get copious amounts of nets and I'm sure they'll be fine and ready to go."
Hussey was not part of the team that triumphed in India in 2004-05 and he is looking forward to his first experience of what the Australians describe as their "Everest". The core group has changed significantly since then and while Hussey believes Australia are still favourites to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, it will be a gruelling contest.
"It's probably the toughest challenge," Hussey said. "I've never played a Test in India but I think the Australian team that won in '04, they said that was probably the Everest and I don't think that's changing. India are arguably up there with the top two or three teams in the world and I think it's going to be a wonderful series. Probably the hardest place to win in international cricket."
The difficult nature of the trip means the players must remain focused at all times. Hussey said that meant it was particularly important that Symonds be properly mentally prepared if he was to put his hand up for selection.
"I just hope from Andrew's point of view he can get his head right," Hussey said. "India is a place that you do have to be 100% committed to the game of cricket and also the team.
"He's a very important member of our side and I think he'd be very effective in a place like India. I haven't spoken to him, I haven't heard anything, but I'm hoping he's going to be part of that trip."
Should Symonds fail to make the cut it will leave Australia with an extra batting position available in the squad, with Simon Katich almost certain to move into the starting top six. Hussey's brother David could well be in line for that back-up position after earning a Cricket Australia contract this year and playing all three ODIs against Bangladesh.
"He's got to come into it for sure," Hussey said. "He's playing well for Victoria for the last few years. He's a very good player of spin. But I don't know, there's some other quality players as well."
The Australians depart for India on September 21 and until then the players will be at home, each individual working on their own game ahead of the trip. Despite picking up two half-centuries against Bangladesh, Hussey believes his own form is still scratchy and he will be spending time in the nets over the next fortnight.
"I'm tinkering with a couple of little things which I still don't think are perfect by any stretch of the imagination," he said. "I've still got a fair bit of work to do to get that right before I get to India and it's probably going to be an ongoing process."