Melbourne: Australia have cut opening batsman Ed Cowan and wicketkeeper Matthew Wade from their list of 18 centrally contracted players, but handed opener Phillip Hughes another chance to establish himself in the national set-up.
The 25-year-old Hughes has been dropped three times since his 2009 Test debut against South Africa and may count himself lucky to retain his spot with David Warner and Chris Rogers cementing their opening partnership in recent series against England and South Africa.
Wade has been shut out of the Australia side with the successful return of veteran keeper Brad Haddin, while Cowan was dropped after failing in the first test on tour against England last year and has been overlooked since.
Batsman Shaun Marsh, awarded a central contract upgrade after slotting into Australia’s test side in South Africa, was retained on the list in a vote of confidence for the 30-year-old lefthander, who scored a brilliant century at Centurion before being dropped after making a pair at Port Elizabeth.
Usman Khawaja, another batsman who failed to grab his chance in England last year, was omitted from the list released by Cricket Australia on Monday, along with young paceman Patrick Cummins, spinner Xavier Doherty, seamer Ben Hilfenhaus and one-day bowling specialist Clint McKay.
Top-order batsmen Adam Voges and Alex Doolan and fast bowler Nathan Coulter-Nile also missed out after being awarded contract upgrades last year. “Alex Doolan was close to receiving a contract and he is highly regarded by the NSP [National Selection Panel] as the incumbent number three batsman in our test line-up,” selector John Inverarity said in a statement on Cricket Australia’s website.
“He made his Australian debut less than two months ago and we look forward to him building strongly on the promising start he made in the three-Test series in South Africa.
“Nathan Coulter-Nile also came close as he has had some impressive white-ball performances for Australia and was in the Test squad for much of the Australian summer.
“The NSP would like to see Nathan continue to progress well and have another strong season in 2014-15.”
Australian players can be upgraded to earn central contracts during the season after earning 12 points, with five points awarded per Test, two for a one-day international and one per Twenty20 match.
The minimum retainer for centrally contracted players is A$250,000 (Dh848,440) for the coming 2014-15 season, Cricket Australia said.
Players who are subsequently upgraded earn a minimum of $210,000.
Contracted players: George Bailey, Michael Clarke, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, Brad Haddin, Ryan Harris, Phillip Hughes, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Chris Rogers, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, David Warner, Shane Watson.