Canberra, Dec 21 : A struggling Ricky Ponting managed to retain his place despite mounting criticism but Australian selectors today dropped out-of-form opener Phil Hughes from the 13-member squad for for the first cricket Test against India, starting on Monday in Melbourne.
There was speculation that Ponting and senior middle-order batsman Mike Hussey are in line to be axed due to a string of poor performance in the past few months but both of them managed to retain their place in the squad.
Tasmanian left-handed opener Ed Cowan and Shaun Marsh, having recovered from his back injury, have been recalled while Hughes and Usman Khawaja have been shown the door.
Interestingly, paceman Ben Hilfenhaus has been recalled on the back of his impressive show in Big Bash Twenty20 cricket and better experience vis-a-vis other rookies in the home bowling line-up.
Even though Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson are part of the squad, Hilfenhaus' experience could be invaluable to the team looking to rein in the likes of Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman.
Hilfenhaus set the tongues wagging with his fiery spell for Hobart Hurricanes against Perth Scorchers earlier this week, watched by Australian coach mickey Arthur.
Cowan has forced his way into the squad on the back of his four consecutive centuries, including 109 made against the Indians themselves in the three-day match for Chairman's XI at Manuka Oval on Monday.
Cowan had an indifferent start to the season but found his rhythm with an unbeaten 91 in a limited overs match. His scores in last few matches have been 4, 134 not out, 145, 10, 65, 145 not out and 109.
Marsh has been included as a cover for opener David Warner who too has been troubled by a back injury. Marsh would also need to show his fitness in order to be considered to play the Boxing Day Test.