Lehmann dropped from ODI squad for NZ series

Published: Thursday, February 10, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Sydney:Veteran batsman Darren Lehmann was omitted from Australia's one-day squad to tour New Zealand, putting the future of the 35-year-old cricketer's international career in serious doubt.

Out-of-form opener Matthew Hayden was included in the team after being left in the stands during the tri-series finals against Pakistan last week, while batsman Mike Hussey and young all-rounder James Hopes were added to the 14-man squad.

Australia is slated to play five one-day internationals and three Tests during their tour of New Zealand, which begins with a Twenty20 match in Auckland on February 17.

Lehmann's career has looked on the rocks since he was dropped from the Australian side for the final Test against Pakistan last month.

His prospects worsened as he put in three single-digit performances, including a first ball duck, during the recent tri-nation one-day series.

Chief selector Trevor Hohns said it had been very difficult dropping Lehmann, one of the most respected and popular members of the Australian team, but that the team needed to look to the future, especially with the Ashes series coming up in July.

"Unfortunately it's one of those tough calls that as selectors we have to make but it is time for us to move forward," Hohns said.

"Darren has been a wonderful player for Australia over a long period of time. However as a selection panel we have to start looking to the future. At 35, age is not on Darren's side and it is fair to say that his performances of late were becoming a concern," he said.

Lehmann, however, did not give up hope for a comeback, saying Hohns had told him "there is still a chance that I'll play Test cricket".

Lehmann said Hohns explained that selectors were looking at younger one-day cricketers with an eye on the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies.

"He just said it's time to move on, and I really understand that," Lehmann said.

"Selectors have the toughest job, it's a pretty thankless job and I understand where they're coming from and what they're working to," he said.

"If it's over, it's over -- there is nothing I can do about it," he said.

Lehmann has played 27 Tests for Australia, averaging 44.95, and 117 one-day matches, scoring 3,077 runs at 38.95.

Hohns said Lehmann's replacement, the West Australian Hussey, "has been knocking on the door for some time".

"He has scored runs consistently at domestic level and we feel that if given the opportunity, could do a very good job for Australia, particularly in the middle order," he said.

Hussey made his one-day debut in Perth last year and Hohns said his inclusion for New Zealand was "a reward for consistency".

Hopes, a 26-year-old Queenslander, was a surprise inclusion, substituting for Shane Watson who was ruled out of the team with a side strain.

"James Hopes is an exciting prospect -- another young talent who we have been keeping a close watch on," Hohns said.

""e has put some excellent performances on the board for Queensland throughout the year and we feel that this opportunity will fast-track his development."

Hussey scored 362 runs in the 2004-05 domestic season at an average of 40.22, while Hopes has scored 291 runs at 36.37 and claimed 11 wickets at 29.18.

Australia's Test squad for New Zealand is due to be announced at the end of February, Cricket Australia said.

Australia's one-day team: Ricky Ponting (capt), Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Damien Martyn, Andrew Symonds, Michael Clarke, Simon Katich, Mike Hussey, James Hopes, Brad Hogg, Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie, Michael Kasprowicz, Glenn McGrath.

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