Hodge replaces injured Ponting for India tour

Published: Thursday, September 23, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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Sydney:Uncapped batsman Brad Hodge was named to replace injured captain Ricky Ponting in the 16-man Australian cricket squad for a four-Test tour of India beginning next week. It was the first time Hodge, 29, has been named in an Australian touring party.

Ponting fractured his thumb in the semi-final of the Champions Trophy match against England this week and is expected to miss at least the first Test against India. Hodge will join the remainder of the Australian squad in India in the lead up to a warm-up match against Mumbai on September 30. The first test is due to begin October 6 in Bangalore.

Wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist was confirmed as captain in Ponting's absence. Selectors chairman Trevor Hohns said Hodges' selection was just reward for his outstanding batting form both in Victoria and for Leicestershire in England.

"Brad's been a consistently strong player for a couple of years now, and his performances at the Pura Cup level and more recently, in County cricket have been outstanding," he said in a statement. We were looking at a specialist batsman to come into the squad for Ricky, and given Brad's consistency and his skills against spin bowling, he was the clear choice," he said.

Ponting is due to return home from Britain on Friday for tests and physiotherapy. Team physiotherapist Errol Alcott said it was too soon to say if Ponting would be fit to play in any of the India Tests.

"We can't make any bold predictions about a return date for Ricky until he has seen a hand specialist back in Australia," he said. Hodge has just come off a dream season in England where he made 1,548 runs for Leicestershire at an average of 61.92. That followed an Australian summer where he made 984 runs at 61.50.

Hodge also earned the call-up because he is a specialist No.3 batsman. He will now go head-to-head with another rookie tourist, Michael Clarke, for Ponting's spot in the first Test at Bangalore.

Hohns said the Australians could either slot Hodge in at No. 3 or move an existing batsmen up the order to make room for Clarke at No.6. That would mean either Damien Martyn, Darren Lehmann or Simon Katich taking over at No.3.

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