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MATADOR BBQS ONE-DAY CUP 2015

In-form Ferguson eyes national recall

03 October 2015

Ferguson brings experience and class to the Redbacks middle-order // Getty Images

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Batsman's pre-season hot streak has him hopeful of Aussie honours, Redbacks improvements

About the Writer:
 @martinsmith9994

Martin Smith is a writer for cricket.com.au. He previously wrote for Yahoo!7 Sport and Fox Sports.

Callum Ferguson was one of two players Darren Lehmann nominated last month when asked on an Adelaide radio station which local talents were on the fringe of national selection.

Ferguson, Lehmann said, was "really close" to a national call-up, along with new West End Redbacks captain Travis Head.

Lehmann’s comments echoed a familiar refrain.

If it seems like Ferguson has been ‘really close’ to the Australian side for a long time, it’s because he has.

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From the moment he made his first-class debut as a 19-year-old in the summer of 2004-05 – ironically at a time when Lehmann and current Australian fielding coach Greg Blewett were his state teammates – the right-hander has been pegged for higher honours.

Having first gotten his chance in Australia's ODI squad in 2009, the then 24-year-old performed superbly at home as well as in England, the UAE and South Africa to bring his dream of a Baggy Green firmly into focus.

Even when he suffered a serious knee injury in the final of the 2009 Champions Trophy, forcing him out of the game for 12 months, the feeling was that it was merely a bump in the road on his way to certain Test selection.

A maiden Test match was seemingly within reach just 12 months later when he was named in an extended squad for the 2010-11 Ashes series, with coach Tim Nielsen indicating the right-hander was well and truly in the mix for a debut at the Gabba.

But the chance never came.

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And five years later, Ferguson is still yet to play Test cricket for Australia.

In those interceding years, he's remained a constant in the discussion about the 'next in line' of Australian batsmen.

He's earned recalls to Australia's ODI squad in 2011, 2012 and 2013, been a regular selection in Australia A squads and has consistently been one of the better performers in both first-class and domestic one-day cricket.

So what's different this summer?

To start with, Ferguson has opened the season in incredible fashion, peeling off scores of 106 not out, 135 not out and 164 in the West End Premier League for a tidy average of 405.

He also had an invaluable experience with the 'A' side over the winter months, playing his first-ever first-class match in India and performing strongly in the middle order in the one-day series, a position he filled so competently with the senior side six years ago.

He says selection on that tour, albeit as a late replacement for Glenn Maxwell in the four-day squad, has given him the belief that higher honours are not far away.

And as much as Lehmann's public comments resonated in the media, Ferguson says it's the private conversations he's had with Australia's selection panel that have given him confidence to believe that 2015-16 may just be his summer.

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"I think selection in the Australia A squad gives you a bit of an indication that you're around the mark," Ferguson told cricket.com.au.

"Trevor Hohns was the selector on duty over there and all the players got a chance to sit down with him at different stages and I enjoyed my chats with Trevor. He was very honest, which you always appreciate as a player.

"I got some good feedback from him and that leaves you feeling a little bit more comfortable with where you sit after those discussions.

"I came away from those chats feeling pretty positive about where I sit.

"At the end of the day, it all comes down to runs and if you pile on a number of runs that they can't ignore, you'll find yourself in a team eventually. That's the focus that I've set myself."

And with almost a third of Australia's initial 2015 Ashes squad now retired, and the waters muddied further by the postponed tour of Bangladesh, Ferguson says this season is the perfect time for those on the fringe to put their hands up.

"Obviously we've had such a successful side for a number of years and we've had a few guys come out and into retirement and that opens up some spots and opportunities," he said.

"Everyone is well aware that there are some opportunities around and the guys that put their hands up over the next six months will get their chance.

"So I'm certainly hoping I'll be able to put my hand up and get my opportunity at some stage."

Ferguson's Redbacks are one of several state sides that head into this summer with an entirely new look.

Skipper Head, who took the reins in last season’s Sheffield Shield and at just 21 is the youngest captain in the SACA's 122-year history, and new coach Jamie Siddons have been charged with improving SA’s recent history that includes just one domestic title in two decades.

Ferguson concedes a shake-up at the Redbacks was needed following a 2014-15 season that was chequered by off-field distractions and last-place finishes in both competitions.

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The summer started with the tragic passing of Phillip Hughes and ended with the departure of coach Darren Berry, the latter deemed utterly insignificant in the context of the former.

Ferguson says SA's 15-man squad for the Matador BBQs One-Day Cup, of which he and Kane Richardson are the only players with international experience, is fitter than it’s ever been after a gruelling pre-season under the watch of former AFL player Stephen Schwerdt, their new strength and conditioning coach.

With the Redbacks the only state side not to have a representative in Australia's squad for the Bangladesh series, Ferguson believes creating a winning culture at South Australia is the first step towards rectifying their under-representation at the top level.

"You're always setting yourself for that sort of thing," he said. "We want to be producing as many as Australian cricketers as possible and we encourage our blokes to set themselves that goal.

"If you're playing in a winning side that certainly helps your selection chances because history shows that selection does tend to come from the sides which are having a lot of success. That’s a natural thing.

"We certainly want to make sure that we're getting more Australian representation, and winning games with South Australia is a good step towards that."

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While Ferguson has been on the domestic scene for more than a decade, and has been touted as part of Australia's next generation for seemingly just as long, he enters this season with time still on his side.

Six weeks shy of his 31st birthday, he’s confident that the twilight period of his career is still several summers away.

And the fact that he twice busted his right knee before he turned 25 could in fact prove to be beneficial well into his thirties.

"I missed some time in the first half of my career with my knee; I had one in the Under-19 World Cup (in 2004) and missed time then and then obviously I blew my knee out in the Champions Trophy (in 2009)," he says.

"I feel like those periods of time out of the game probably have me being a little bit younger when it comes to playing years. I feel like I've been freshened up a little bit.

"Especially after the second operation when I spent 12 months out of the game, I felt like that freshened me up.

"So I'm certainly hoping that I'll be playing well into my thirties and I feel like I have plenty of time left in the game.

"I'm setting myself for the aim of getting back into the Australian team, that's for sure."

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