Evergreen 'Brad pack' named in T20 Cup squad
The notion that the athletic demands of 20-over cricket dictate it's a young player's game has been turned on its head with Australian selectors naming a trio of veterans in their squad for next month's ICC Twenty20 World Cup in Bangladesh.
In what can be trumpeted as a victory for the seniors' circuit, Australia will contest the biennial short form with crucial help from the evergreen 'Brad pack' – Brad Hogg (aged a sprightly 43), Brad Hodge (39) and the youngster of the trio, Test vice-captain Brad Haddin (36).
Hogg effectively drew the curtain on his international career following his final one-day international for Australia at the end of the 2007-08 summer, but found a new lease of life in the 20-over format where his zippy wrist spin has proved difficult to pick and almost as hard to score from.
He then came back to play a handful of T20 internationals for Australia in 2012, but even despite his growing status as a cult hero with the Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash League nobody – including the effervescent Hogg himself – foresaw him being part of Australia's World Cup plans.
Similarly, Hodge was considered by many to be past his peak at international level even though he remains one of the most prolific in the KFC Big Bash League and highly sought after in the Indian Premier League.
Prior to his recall for the final two 20-over internationals against England recently, Hodge's Australian career looked to have ended in 2008.
But his inclusion in the World Cup squad will gladden those who believe the sheer volume of runs he scores in the short form of the game demanded recognition, and appease his many devoted fans – mainly in Victoria – who believe his international career had been unfairly and prematurely truncated.
Far from becoming the domain in which budding young talents are fast-tracked, the Twenty20 format – with the limited physical demands and the heightened value it places on execution of skills under pressure – has become a lucrative proposition for players at or near the end of their first-class careers.
The Australian squad also includes a number of other players in their 30s including Test spearhead Mitchell Johnson, all-rounder Shane Watson and recalled veteran Cameron White and will be led by deposed Test batsman, 31-year-old George Bailey.
But to show they are neither ageist nor traditionalist, the national selection panel has punted on exciting 20-year-old legspinner James Muirhead who showed that he has a considerable international future with his performances in the recent KFC Twenty20 international series against England.
The blend of vintages is perhaps best illustrated by highlighting that Muirhead had only just turned three when Hogg made his Test debut for Australia in India in 1996.
Far from being a project player named in the squad to gain experience at international level, Muirhead is expected to make an impression on pitches in Bangladesh that are likely to prove far more conducive to spin and reverse swing than pure pace.
The young Victorian, who recently signed a four-year deal with the Bushrangers, will also benefit from the expert tuition that Shane Warne has been enlisted to provide during the three-match Twenty20 series in South Africa that immediately precedes the T20 World Cup.
"We have selected a squad that has plenty of experience playing the Twenty20 format in the sub-continent, which augers well for the challenges of Bangladesh," chair of the national selection panel John Inverarity said today.
"We have a group with good depth in power hitting and a range of bowling options.
"It has been strengthened by the return of Mitch Johnson, Brad Haddin, Shane Watson and David Warner who were not considered recently for Twenty20 selection against England due to the Test Tour of South Africa.
"The NSP was pleased with the way the side performed in those Twenty 20 matches where they played with great confidence and authority.
"Of those performances we were highly impressed with James Muirhead who displayed a good temperament, excellent control and a leg-break that turns significantly.
"He is an exciting inclusion.
"Brad Hogg comes into the squad as the other frontline spinner.
"Once again Brad bowled very well for the Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash League and many batsmen found him difficult to read.
"Despite his age, his enthusiasm and fitness are undiminished.
"Glenn Maxwell and Dan Christian provide good all-round capabilities including important bowling variety and excellent fielding.
"Brad Hodge has made a great number of Twenty20 runs on the sub-continent and played many match defining innings there.
"He will provide the squad with a great deal of calm experience and knowledge.
"His inclusion is just reward for his outstanding performances in this form of the game over many seasons.
"James Faulkner is recovering well from his knee surgery.
"He is expected to be fully fit for Bangladesh.
"We will monitor his rehabilitation to see how he is progressing for the matches in South Africa."
The 15-man squad is: George Bailey (Capt, Hobart Hurricanes), Dan Christian (Brisbane Heat), Nathan Coulter-Nile (Perth Scorchers), James Faulkner (Melbourne Stars), Aaron Finch (Melbourne Renegades), Brad Haddin (Sydney Sixers), Brad Hodge (Melbourne Stars), Brad Hogg (Perth Scorchers), Glenn Maxwell (Melbourne Stars), James Muirhead (Melbourne Stars), Mitchell Johnson (Brisbane Heat), Mitchell Starc (Sydney Sixers), David Warner (Sydney Thunder), Shane Watson (Brisbane Heat), Cameron White (Melbourne Stars).
Australia’s ICC World Twenty20 pool matches:
March 23 v Pakistan, Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium, Mirpur
March 28 v West Indies, Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium, Mirpur
March 31 v India, Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium, Mirpur.
April 1, v Qualifier, Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium, Mirpur.
All of Australia’s pool matches as well as the semi-finals and the final will be broadcast on the Nine Network and FOX Sports. All other tournament matches will be broadcast on FOX Sports.
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia
First Posted 11 February, 2014 12:28PM AEST