Australia Test stars Steve Smith and David Warner have hailed the form of NSW batsman Daniel Hughes amid controversy around his inclusion in the state's JLT Sheffield Shield squad ahead of Ed Cowan.
Smith and Warner lead a host of Australian Test talent playing domestic first-class cricket this week, with only Josh Hazlewood of the leading figures from the Magellan Ashes not in action.
The return to Shield cricket of Australia's Test duo created a selection dilemma for NSW, with the Test captain admitting he had a say in sidelining Cowan in favour of Hughes, who both Smith and Warner said had the potential to earn a Baggy Green.
Former Test opener Cowan was the leading Shield run-scorer during the 2016-17 season that ended in March, and won the Steve Waugh Medal as NSW's best player.
But after a return of 146 runs at 36.5 in NSW's six JLT One-Day Cup games, with two fifties, as well as a knock of 22 in his only first-grade game this summer, Cowan was left out of NSW's Shield squad.
State selectors instead turned to Hughes, a 28-year-old left-hander, who was the JLT One-Day Cup's fourth leading run-scorer with 379 runs at 63.16, including two centuries.
Hughes also scored an unbeaten 203 batting at first drop for Mosman in their NSW Premier Cricket clash last Saturday.
"I did have an involvement and it's a tough selection," Smith told reporters at the launch of his biography 'The Journey'.
"Unfortunately people have to miss out and on this occasion it's Ed.
"I've told him myself that when he comes back into the team ... he has to continue to set the standard and do what he did so well last year."
The decision to pick 28-year-old Hughes ahead of 35-year-old Cowan has triggered widespread debate.
Chris Rogers, who played Test cricket until he was almost 38 years old, called it "confusing" given Cowan scored 959 runs at 73.76 during the most recent Shield season.
Smith and Warner both described Hughes, who averages 36.68 from 17 first-class games, as a player of Test potential.
"He looks like he has a very good technique. He plays the new ball well as we've seen in one-day cricket," Smith said.
"He's been in terrific form.
"It's a good opportunity for him to play with the likes of myself and Davey (Warner), learn a little bit off us and the way we prepare.
"And a good chance for me to see him play as well ... against some good pink-ball bowlers in Adelaide."
Warner agreed Hughes, who had been selected for Australia A's winter tour of South Afrca that was later cancelled, was capable of earning a Baggy Green.
"I think he is an exceptional talent, a very good, clean hitter of the ball," Warner said.
"He's got a lot of patience and he hits the ball 360 degrees. I'm excited to see him in action.
"Of what I've seen of him, definitely (is a potential Test player).
"He's got composure, he's patient and he really gets into his innings as we saw during the JLT Cup. His form is great and hopefully he can keep progressing that into the Shield.
"(Cowan) played fantastic last year (but) obviously they've given an opportunity to Hughesy to take the form from the JLT Cup into the Shield season. Good luck to Hughesy this week."
Every match of the JLT Sheffield Shield will be streamed live on cricket.com.au and the CA Live app