SYDNEY: Veteran wicketkeeper Brad Haddin was recalled to the Australia squad on Wednesday as vice-captain for the upcoming Ashes tour to England as selectors opted for experience against their fiercest rivals.
Haddin, 35, who has played only one Test since January 2012, replaces Shane Watson as Michael Clarke’s deputy in a 16-man squad for the five-Test series starting in July at Trent Bridge.
Australia, who dominated England for so long in the Ashes but have lost three out of the past four contests, are ranked fourth in the world after a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of India last month.
Cricket chiefs have targeted a return to the number one ranking but the retirements of modern-day great Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey, until lately a stalwart of the batting line-up, have left the team struggling in key areas.
Chris Rogers, 35, has also been recalled, with chief selector John Inverarity admitting experience was an important factor in the absence of Ponting and Hussey.
Watson is in the squad but stood down from his role as vice-captain over the weekend to concentrate on his batting and bowling following his controversial axing in India for disciplinary reasons.
Inverarity said Haddin was now his first-choice wicketkeeper, with former gloveman Matthew Wade likely to carry the drinks.
“In regards to the vice-captaincy, we feel it’s important to have a senior, seasoned player support Michael at this time,” said Inverarity, with few other obvious candidates in the absence of Watson, Ponting and Hussey.
“When Shane Watson advised of his decision to stand down, the selectors viewed Brad as the exceptional candidate to step into this leadership void.”
Clarke said Haddin’s experience would be crucial after the humbling in India.
“His leadership, his experience will play a big part in this group. He’s a senior player and experienced player and having the vice-captaincy is something he’ll enjoy,” he said.
Haddin will captain the Australia A squad, which will play matches against Scotland, Ireland and Gloucestershire before the Ashes series.
Rogers has also been selected, five years after he earned his one and only Test cap against India. He has played extensively in England and been in prolific form.
“With Mike (Hussey) and Ricky going there’s a gap in experience and Chris fills that gap,” Inverarity said.
The selectors opted for six pacemen spearheaded by Peter Siddle, James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc, with allrounder James Faulkner, Ryan Harris and Jackson Bird giving Australia plenty of options.
But they are only taking one spinner in Nathan Lyon, with the highly rated Ashton Agar missing out, along with paceman Mitchell Johnson, who failed to make an impression against India.
Inverarity said he felt the squad had a good balance, but admitted the series — the first of a double-header against England this year — would be tough against powerful opponents.
“In saying that, this squad will be very competitive and fight hard every inch of the way,” he said. “We have high expectations of this team, and if they play to their potential we feel we can mount a very strong challenge.”
Michael Clarke (capt), Brad Haddin (vice-capt), David Warner, Ed Cowan, Chris Rogers, Phil Hughes, Shane Watson, Usman Khawaja, Matthew Wade, James Faulkner, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson, Ryan Harris, Jackson Bird, Nathan Lyon.