The hysteria of whitewashing England in the Ashes was enough to overlook the possibility of Alex Doolan’s inclusion in the XI for the fifth Test.
The inclusion of Doolan’s name in the squad highlighted Phil Hughes’ plight, raising questions of why he was not the first cab off the rank.
It seemed a no-brainer when one factored in Hughes’ 2013 average of 61 with two centuries and one double from nine Sheffield Shield innings this season in comparison to Doolan’s average of 39.1 with just one century.
It made one think that Hughes’ figures are currently irrelevant, with the Australian selectors applying a higher judgement to him.
Their focus seems to be on the flaws in his game that they are adverse to trust in the interim, rather than take a leap of faith to show support for a player with undoubted talent.
Hughes’s exclusion from the Test team seems to point more and more towards a lack of faith shown in him by Australian head coach Darren Lehmann, who perhaps sees him as very able in the standard below Test level but without the current game to deal with the eclectic challenges of the Test arena.
Of course, I am reading into the situation without facts, but allow me to show evidence of smoke to give credibility of supposed fires.
Consider the Lehmann quote to explain Hughes’ dropping after the second Ashes Test in England: “Because of a failure to convert good starts into big hundreds.”
As an Aussie fan, one could be forgiven for taking this reasoning as a bit of a joke considering all of the Aussie top six outside of Michael Clarke have struggled with converting starts.
One just had to look at Shane Watson, who at the time had not turned a start into a big score in 45 innings, to gain a chuckle. It also represented a bitter pill for Hughes to swallow considering he had the highest score of an unbeaten 81.
Even now, with Hughes having a century strike rate of one in every three innings in the Shield this season, he’s overlooked.
Which again makes one question why.
On top of being recently overlooked for Alex Doolan, he was burning it up in the lead-up to the first Ashes test in Brisbane, only to have George Bailey preferred to him on the back of his stellar ODI form.
Even when Bailey struggled throughout the Ashes series, averaging 26.1 against a tepid English attack, Hughes’ name was never aggressively pushed forward as a replacement.
As we look forward to the naming of the Australian squad for South Africa, it in essence represents a fork in the road of Hughes’ career.
His present figures, coupled with his previous success in South Africa, should make him a virtual certainty.
Supporting him further is the pace-dominated South African attack which, although of the highest quality, he has conquered before.
Lastly, the absence of a quality spinner to test his noted weakness against the slow men facilitates his chances to succeed.
If not chosen, the only conclusion is that the Australian selectors have turned their backs on him.