BRAD Hodge’s late bid for an Ashes comeback has failed, with Victoria turning down the veteran batsman’s offer to come out of retirement to play in the Sheffield Shield.
The Bushrangers have informed Hodge he won’t be selected at first-class level for three reasons.
First, Hodge left his run until too late in the season, then took off to play in the Bangladesh Premier League, from which he is not due to return until February 15. He would only have been available for Victoria’s last two shield games.
Second, Victoria is determined to plan for the future in an effort to produce a regular Test batsman. To bring back Hodge, 38, would have been perceived as a backward step.
And, third, the Victorian hierachy received a cool response from the national selection panel when gauging Hodge’s prospects of breaking back into the national team almost five years after his last Test.
“If the race was going to be run it’s run out of time because he has taken himself off [to Bangladesh],” said Victoria’s chairman of selectors, Andrew Lynch.
“We would have had to have got going in South Australia which couldn’t have occurred because he’d left.
“That, combined with the fact we’re going in a different direction … We’re looking forward rather than back and while it was nice to think it might have been a fairytale selection for the Ashes, the bottom line is they told us they would be unlikely to pick him. Never say never, but highly unlikely.
“We add all those pieces up; not being here, our situation where we want to look to the future and the highly unlikely possibility of it and it would have been all too rushed. So we’re not going forward with that.”
Hodge floated the idea of returning to first-class cricket and making himself available for Ashes selection after Mike Hussey’s retirement left a gaping hole in the middle order and a void in experience.
His offer accentuated the lack of depth in Australian batting, but Victoria’s decision to look to the future signals an encouraging willingness to provide opportunities for the likes of Aaron Finch, Peter Handscomb and Michael Hill.
Though Hodge played six Tests and Rob Quiney was promoted for a series against South Africa this summer, the Bushrangers have not had a regular Test batsman since Matthew Elliott, who played the last of his 21 Tests in 2004.
Given the strong domestic form of opening batsman Chris Rogers, the state selectors were not prepared to deprive a young batsman of a spot by picking a second veteran in the top order.
“[Glenn] Maxwell is on the verge as an all-rounder but we want to get a batsman into the Test side.
“It would have been a very short term focus and we’re not going to go down that road,” Lynch said.
Hodge is still expected to play club cricket for Melbourne late in the season to keep his eye in ahead of the Indian Premier League season, in which he will represent Rajasthan.
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