NSW wicketkeeper Brad Haddin and paceman Pat Cummins are likely to have just two Sheffield Shield matches to convince Australian selectors they’re ready to resume their Test careers this summer.
Cricket Australia (CA) released the 2012-13 interstate season schedule on Monday, with the season to start almost a month earlier than last summer.
CA said in a statement that the earlier start is designed to give players “adequate opportunity to prepare and put their hand up for potential higher honours”, but an expanded Twenty20 Big Bash competition would’ve also been taken into account.
The Blues will play four-day matches against Western Australia and Tasmania in September before the first Test squad is likely to be announced to face South Africa at the Gabba in Brisbane from November 9.
The 2012 Champions League Twenty20 in South Africa from October 9-28, which includes Haddin and Cummins for the Sydney Sixers, means no Shield action has been scheduled for the Blues in that period.
Haddin didn’t play a part in the three-Test series against the West Indies in the Caribbean in April after returning from the tour for personal reasons.
In his place, Victoria’s Matthew Wade stepped up to make his Test debut and impressed with the gloves and the bat in testing conditions on slow, dry wickets.
Wade scored the only century by an Australian in the series when he made 106 in a man-of-the-match effort in the 75-run victory in the final Test in Dominica.
Haddin will turn 35 just before the first Test and he’ll need to score runs for the Blues to have any chance of dislodging Wade and adding to his 43-Test career.
Cummins burst onto the scene as an 18-year-old with seven wickets on his Test debut in Australia’s thrilling two-wicket win against South Africa in Johannesburg last year.
But his sudden rise and subsequent increased workload contributed to him suffering a heel injury that prevented him from touring the Caribbean.
He returned for Australia’s one-day tour of England in July, but was forced home after just one match at Lord’s due to a side strain.
Cummins will also need to prove to selectors he can sustain his pace and accuracy in Sheffield Shield cricket before he can be considered for the Gabba Test.
Injured Victorian pacemen James Pattinson (abdominal strain) and Peter Siddle (back) will also need to prove they’re back to fitness with the Bushrangers to play three Shield matches before the opening Test.
The 2012-13 domestic season opens with Western Australia hosting NSW in a one-day match at the WACA on September 16 while the Sheffield Shield season opens a couple of days later when the same two teams clash at the same venue.
Both competitions will have a break for the 35 T20 Big Bash League games from December 7 to January 19.
The one-day Cup final will be played on February 27 while the Sheffield Shield decider will start on March 22.