Melbourne, Dec.11 (ANI): Australia's greatest pair of opening batsmen, Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer, have backed discarded New South Wales batsman Phillip Hughes to make a comeback to the national squad, and also said that all-rounder Shane Watson is doing a great job at the top.
Hayden and Langer say Hughes, just turned 21, is on the rite of passage almost all Australia cricketers go through. Many of the Hayden-Langer generation were chosen young, then had their wilderness years before returning as better, more rounded players.
"Right now Shane Watson is the incumbent opener and is doing a great job," Fox Sports quoted Hayden, as saying after the pair made a guest appearance at Cricket Victoria's Lindsay Hassett Club lunch in Melbourne on Thursday.
"The side is evolving and changing and to that end, there are opportunities ... down the track. It's not right now. To the future, there are opportunities for a player we're very excited about and that's Phil Hughes. He's earning his stripes right now, just like Justin and myself did over a five-to-six-year period of actually being out of the side. That doesn't mean he's not going to be a great player for Australia; we've already seen the potential," Hayden said.
Hayden was surprised how quickly Hughes was dumped, just two Tests into the Ashes and three Tests after he became the youngest player in history to score a century in each innings of a Test.
"The noose went around his neck very quickly, there's no about that, but that's the role of the national selectors," Hayden said.
"They make their calls and they've been, I guess, rejoicing in the fact that an in-form Shane Watson has come in and done the job," he added.
Langer said playing for Australia was all about taking your opportunities when they were presented.
"Shane Watson has done that," Langer said.
"What Phil Hughes is going through at the moment is almost the Australian cricketer's journey, because we both came in early, as did Damien Martyn, as did Ricky Ponting, as did Michael Clarke.
"We had a little taste of that, then we were left out to go away and get better and stronger technically, physically, mentally. Then we came back and we were better players.
"I don't care if Phil Hughes is two weeks off playing again, two months off playing, two years off playing, he'll come back a stronger player and a better player and that will benefit Australian cricket," Langer said.
Langer also strongly defended Ponting's captaincy following a call by former fast bowler Rodney Hogg to replace Ponting as leader with Katich.
"He is quite inspirational as a leader and I just never get all the detractors he has," Langer said.
"Whether it's in the fielding practice, the nets, the way he holds himself off the field - every time he speaks, these young guys just listen, they hang on every word, he says.
"It's a very, very hard job - I never did it, not many people did. His record speaks for itself, as a batsman, as a leader he has been outstanding. To hear some of this rubbish I hear from former players, it must have been an easy game for them." (ANI)