SYDNEY: Defending champions Australia on Tuesday unveiled their squad for next month’s World Cup, banking on the fitness of a pair of injury-prone pacemen and elder statesmen Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey.
Veteran Brett Lee and enigmatic short-form specialist Shaun Tait were both included in the 15-man squad for the tournament in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, which they are trying to win for the fourth successive time.
Ponting was named as skipper, but is still recovering from a broken finger, while Hussey made the squad but is a major doubt after a severe hamstring tear in the six-wicket win over England at the MCG on Sunday.
Hussey is expected to be sidelined for at last six weeks, with Australia’s first game on February 21, and chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch conceded he was a doubt for the showpiece event.
Players can be replaced before the tournament.
By selecting Lee and Tait, as well as erratic duo Mitchell Johnson and Doug Bollinger, Australia will rely heavily on their pace bowlers to be at their best.
Lee performed well in Australia’s win over England on Sunday, but the 34-year-old and Tait are both on the comeback trail after serious elbow injuries.
Sunday’s game was Lee’s first one-day international for Australia since October 2009 and he missed the 2007 World Cup triumph due to injury.
Tait, who played in the 2007 final but mainly plays Twenty20 cricket these days, was ruled out of Sunday’s game with a back problem.
The 27-year-old has only played three ODIs since February 2009, but taken eight wickets in those three matches.
Hilditch said the squad was perfectly balanced.
“One of the major decisions to be made in this squad was ensuring the balance was right in the squad to provide the best cover for all positions in the event of injury, illness or form issues that may arise,” Hilditch said.
“It includes the experience of Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Brett Lee, and also some young talent like Steve Smith.
“Shaun Tait, Shane Watson, Mike Hussey, Mitchell Johnson and Brad Haddin were all also part of the victorious 2007 ICC cricket World Cup squad that went unbeaten in the Caribbean, so there is plenty of character in this group of Australian cricketers.”
The shock selection was Victorian all-rounder John Hastings, who has played just two one-day internationals, while David Hussey, Mike’s younger brother, also made the squad.
Tasmanian wicketkeeper-batsman Tim Paine, touted by many as a future Australian captain, is part of the 15.
Left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty, who played on Sunday, was overlooked in favour of the returning Nathan Hauritz, who was ignored for the entire Ashes series but has been in top form in domestic first-class cricket this season.
Victorian paceman Peter Siddle was not included, despite being one of the better Ashes performers for Australia with ball and bat.
Squad: Ricky Ponting (captain), Michael Clarke, Doug Bollinger, Brad Haddin, John Hastings, Nathan Hauritz, David Hussey, Mike Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, Tim Paine, Steve Smith, Shaun Tait, Shane Watson, Cameron White.