HOBART, Nov 21: Michael Clarke has been dropped from the Australia team for the third Test against West Indies starting in Adelaide on Thursday. The out-of-form middle-order batsman was omitted after regular opener Justin Langer was cleared to return from injury in the only change to the 12-man squad that beat West Indies in Hobart on Monday to retain the Frank Worrell Trophy.
Mike Hussey, who replaced Langer for the first two Tests against West Indies, retained his spot after making his maiden Test century in Hobart but will vacate the opening role for Langer.
“Winning the man of the match is fantastic but I’m under no under illusions,” Hussey said.
“Justin’s played fantastically well over a long period and he totally deserves that place at the top of the order.
“I’d be more than happy to bat wherever... for me it’s nice to know I can succeed at Test level.”
Australia’s chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns said Hussey would join Brad Hodge, who made 60 on debut in Hobart, in the middle-order at the expense of Clarke.
“Justin is fit to slot back into the team and we know that Mike Hussey can perform a very good role for us in the middle order,” Hohns said.
Clarke is regarded as one of the brighest prospects in Australian cricket after making a century on debut against India last year and winning the Allan Border Medal as Australia’s player of the season.
However, the 24-year-old has had a lean run with the bat this year, scoring just 476 runs from 12 Tests at an average of 28.
“He is a very talented player with a bright future and we know that he has a very long future ahead of him at Test level,” Hohns said.
“We think it’s time to give him a break, to go back to domestic cricket and clear his head so that he can bat the way we know he can, and the way he knows he can.”
Clarke is the fifth Australian player axed in the past few months.
Fast bowlers Jason Gillespie and Michael Kasprowicz were both dropped during the Ashes while Damien Martyn was dropped for the World XI test and Simon Katich lost his place to Hodge a fortnight ago.
But Australia captain Ricky Ponting, who was dropped at a similar stage of his career, said Clarke had youth on his side and would emerge as a better player for the experience.
“No-one is safe and you have to keep producing every week. We always knew that but we’ve been doing it for the last five or six years which is the reason there haven’t been many changes,” Ponting said.
“I am sure it will make him a better player if he goes back and has some success at first-class level, it would probably give him a bit more confidence than he probably has at the moment.
“I don’t think it will be destructive for him although it is a hard thing for any players to swallow, especially the first time.
“He just has to go back and be patient and I am sure things will change for him.”
Squad: Ricky Ponting (captain), Justin Langer, Matthew Hayden, Brad Hodge, Mike Hussey, Andrew Symonds, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne, Brett Lee, Stuart MacGill, Glenn McGrath, Nathan Bracken (12th man to be named).—Reuters