Sydney: Veteran wicketkeeper Brad Haddin was recalled to the Australian squad on Wednesday and made vice-captain for their upcoming Ashes tour to England with Chris Rogers and Ryan Harris also making the grade. Haddin, who has only played one Test in the past 14 months and turns 35 next week, replaces Shane Watson as Michael Clarke's deputy in a 16-man squad for the five-Test series starting in England in July.
Watson stood down from his role as vice-captain over the weekend to concentrate on improving his batting and bowling following his controversial axing in India last month. Selector John Inverarity made clear that Haddin was now his first choice wicketkeeper, although Matthew Wade is also in the squad and could play as a specialist batsman.
"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 Australia lacking a vacuum of other obvious candidates. "When Shane Watson advised of his decision to stand down, the selectors viewed Brad as the exceptional candidate to step into this leadership void.
"Matthew Wade is a very good cricketer and remains central to our plans for the future," he added. Rogers will also be on the plane, five years after he played his one and only Test against India. The selectors opted for six pacemen spearheaded by Peter Siddle, James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc, with allrounder James Faulkner, Harris and Jackson Bird giving them plenty of options.
But they are only taking one spinner in Nathan Lyon, with the highly rated Ashton Agar missing out, along with Mitchell Johnson, Moises Henriques and Glenn Maxwell. "There is no bigger series or rivalry in world cricket than the Ashes and the selectors have picked a squad of 16 that will give us the best possible chance of winning in English conditions," said Inverarity.
"We are under no illusion that this is going to be (anything but) a huge challenge, and we certainly go into it as underdogs with England playing very good cricket with an experienced and settled team that plays well at home. "In saying that, this squad will be very competitive and fight hard every inch of the way. 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
Australia A squad:
Brad Haddin (capt), Steven Smith (vice-capt), Ashton Agar, Jackson Bird, Alex Doolan, Ryan Harris, Moises Henriques, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Nic Maddinson, James Pattinson, Chadd Sayers, Peter Siddle, Jordan Silk.
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