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Shield or Test? The Hughes conundrum

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South Australian cricket officials are watching nervously as their star Shield batsman Phil Hughes sits on the edge of a Test recall.

While they wish the prolific run scorer well in his bid to return to the national side, he’s also a key part of the state’s bid to win its first Shield since 1996.

The Redbacks are on top of the Shield table and matches resume in two weeks after a break for Big Bash, one day and T20 Internationals.

Many had expected Hughes to make the national side for the South African tour that starts Wednesday, but selectors surprised most observers by picking West Australian Shaun Marsh.

In an ironic twist, Hughes – with three first-class hundreds this summer – could still make the trip.

Marsh didn’t catch the plane with the rest of the side and is being assessed over the next two days as he battles a calf injury.

If the injury doesn’t respond to treatment, the selectors may have avoided embarrassment.

The chorus is building for Hughes after the shock decision by selectors to opt for Marsh over the man who had done what selectors asked – go back and score runs.

Former Australian captain Allan Border went into bat for Hughes recently and last night on Melbourne radio station 3AW  cricket great Dean Jones let fly: “This is is my point (regarding) why Shaun Marsh was picked. I was livid with that. The guy’s averaged 25 over his last three years.

“So our selectors are picking guys on mediocrity. See, for some reason they don’t like Phil Hughes.

“He looks weird, he hits the ball in funny spots but the kid averages 50 in first-class cricket. Let’s not forget the three Test centuries he’s made against South Africa on that South African tour.”

Jones said Hughes had done what the selectors asked, yet was not rewarded with selection.

“What sort of example are we trying to show for all our batsmen around the country? ‘Go back and make some runs’ and then you pick this guy who’s 29 and had a few tries,” Jones continued.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’ve known Shaun Marsh since he was two … but that’s not the right example we want for our young guys going through.

“I’m worried about stereotyping and loving guys for who they look like and having this glamour and a good-looking fella that goes out and plays a couple of good shots and makes a soft 30 and gets out.”

Border said prior to the squad being announced that he was baffled as to why Hughes seemed to be out of favour with selectors.

“(Hughes) is just so far in front of any other contender it’s not funny, so I’m hoping they’ll take Hughes on the plane (to South Africa). It looks like (Alex) Doolan’s jumped in front of him and I’m not 100 per cent sure why,” Border said, on January 17.

George Bailey was the only player dropped from the successful Ashes side, but isn’t holding his breath for a lifeline – tipping Hughes as the next batsman in line.

“I wouldn’t have thought so,” Bailey said.

“I reckon Phil Hughes would be (called up).”

South Australian players would be hoping for the best for Hughes – but will be mightily pleased if he stays home.

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