Michael Hussey will captain Australia for their three-match Chappell-Hadlee Trophy series in New Zealand after the selectors decided to rest Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist. Adam Voges has been included in the 13-man squad and Brad Haddin will take over the wicketkeeping duties.
Andrew Hilditch, the chairman of selectors, said Ponting's sore back was the reason he was being given a break before the World Cup. "We are advised that for Ricky to arrive at the World Cup in the best possible physical shape, his workload should be managed through this period," Hilditch said. "It should be noted that there is no question over Ricky's availability for the World Cup."
Ponting's niggle has plagued him for a couple of years but Alex Kountouris, Australia's physiotherapist, said scans had cleared him of any serious damage. "While he is able to train and play," Kountouris said, "the injury causes him significant discomfort and we want to alleviate this before the start of what is a major tournament."
Gilchrist's absence is part of the rotation system and having played in every CB Series match he was due for a break. "Adam has had a demanding summer and has performed brilliantly in both forms of the game," Hilditch said. "It is felt that he should use the period after the CB finals to allow his body to properly recover in advance of the World Cup."
Hussey has captained Australia once before, when he made an unbeaten 109 in a loss to West Indies at the DLF Cup in Malaysia last year. Michael Clarke has been appointed vice-captain for the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy defence, which kicks off next Friday. Shane Watson will have an extra three games to test his fitness while World Cup hopefuls like Brad Hodge, Cameron White and Brad Hogg have been included. Neither Shaun Tait nor Stuart Clark made the squad.
The uncapped Voges, who was briefly part of Australia's squad before the Perth Test in December, said he was shocked to get the call-up. "It's a bit of a surprise, to be honest," Voges said. "I've just been concentrating on the Warriors' Pura Cup campaign and to have something like this come out of the blue is pretty amazing."
Squad Michael Hussey (capt), Matthew Hayden, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke, Brad Hodge, Adam Voges, Brad Haddin (wk), Cameron White, Brad Hogg, Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Bracken, Glenn McGrath.