Australia Picks Haddin, Rogers to Fill Ashes Leadership Void

Australia picked two 35-year-olds to plug an experience gap for its Ashes cricket series in England, choosing Brad Haddin as first-choice wicketkeeper and vice-captain, and recalling batsman Chris Rogers.

Haddin, who only returned to the national squad last month following more than a year out, was appointed as captain Michael Clarke’s deputy after Shane Watson stood down last week. All-rounder James Faulkner was included for the first time in a 16-man squad also featuring the recall of fast bowler Ryan Harris.

“In regards to the vice-captaincy, we feel it’s important to have a senior, seasoned player support Michael at this time,” National Selector John Inverarity said today in a statement. “When Shane Watson advised of his decision to stand down, the panel viewed Brad as the exceptional candidate to step into this leadership void.”

Australia’s Test team, which suffered its first 4-0 sweep of losses since 1970 in India last month, is scheduled to take on England in back-to-back five-match series this year, in the U.K. beginning July 10 and then at home from Nov. 21.

After winning eight straight Ashes contests between 1989 and 2003, Australia lost three of the past four and faces the prospect of losing three series in a row against its archrival for the first time since 1956. England is the 4-9 favorite to win on home soil, according to U.K. bookmaker William Hill, which makes Australia the 7-2 outsider.

“With this squad, we have the talent, the experience and the youth to go over there and have success,” Clarke, 32, said at a televised news conference in Sydney. “We know how we let ourselves down and let the Australian public down by the way we performed in India. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Preferred Keeper

Haddin spent almost 14 months out of the team after being usurped as first-choice gloveman by Matthew Wade. Haddin flew to India as a late injury replacement for Wade for the third Test and his Ashes squad selection is as a wicketkeeper first and vice-captain second, Inverarity said. Wade will be his backup.

“The firm intention at this stage is that Brad is our preferred keeper for the Ashes,” Inverarity told reporters in Sydney. “Matthew Wade remains very highly regarded.”

Rogers returns to the national squad five years after playing his only Test against India. The left-handed opener has scored more than 5,000 first-class runs during the past four seasons playing in England for Derbyshire and Middlesex, with 17 centuries and an average of 52.3.

The younger batsmen in the team may also benefit from his know-how following the retirements of Ricky Ponting, Australia’s all-time leading run-scorer, and middle-order mainstay Michael Hussey during the Australian summer, Inverarity said.

“With Michael and Ricky going, there is a gap in experience,” he said. “Chris sort of nicely fills that. He’s made nearly 20,000 first-class runs.”

‘Competitive Cricketer’

Faulkner, 22, was elevated to the elite Test squad after taking 125 wickets at 22.34 in 34 first-class matches for his Tasmania state team. He’s also taken eight wickets at an average of 26.37 in five one-day internationals, and three wickets at

17.50 in three Twenty20 matches.

“James Faulkner has impressed us all in recent seasons as a very competitive cricketer who gets things done,” Inverarity said. “His batting has improved significantly, he’s made runs, forms partnerships and is always lurking and taking a wicket.”

Usman Khawaja was chosen among the seven specialist batsmen ahead of Steven Smith, while Mitchell Johnson, Glenn Maxwell, Xavier Doherty and Moises Henriques were left out having also toured India.

Watson was picked as a batting all-rounder, while Nathan Lyon is the sole specialist spin bowler in the squad, which has scope for the addition of more players.

“We have full flexibility from Cricket Australia to add to the squad for fitness or form, or for any other sort of need that we might have,” Inverarity said. “We’re very comfortable with that.”

AUSTRALIA SQUAD: Michael Clarke (captain), Brad Haddin (vice-captain), Jackson Bird, Ed Cowan, James Faulkner, Ryan Harris, Phil Hughes, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, James Pattinson, Chris Rogers, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Shane Watson.

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