Melbourne: Former Australian Test stars have called on the selectors to explain their treatment of Victorian Brad Hodge as he faces the prospect of being snubbed for the World Cup.
The 15-man Australian squad for next month`s World Cup is to be named this week and, it is unlikely to feature Hodge, who has been dubbed the "hard-luck story of the century" by former Test opener Matthew Hayden.
Despite topping the run-scorer`s list in the domestic one-day series this summer with 494 runs at 82.33, Hodge was omitted from the 14-man squad for today`s opening one-day international against England in Melbourne.
Just as mysterious have been Hodge`s repeated setbacks at the national selection table over an 18-year domestic career that has netted 17,084 first-class runs at an average of 48.81.
Former Test quick Rodney Hogg says it is time for the national panel to publicly outline the reasons for limiting Hodge to only six Tests and 25 one-day appearances for Australia since his debut for Victoria in 1993-94.
"Selectors don`t have to tell us everything, but in Hodge`s case, I think we need some explanation," nes.com.au quoted Hogg, as saying.
He added: "It`s illogical. It will go down as one of the great mysteries why Brad Hodge hasn`t played more Test cricket for Australia. The selectors owe Brad an explanation. It`s absolutely ridiculous how he has been treated. Statistics show he has been desperately unlucky. He is one of the five unluckiest players in Australian Test history."
Numerous conspiracy theories have abounded for Hodge`s ill-fortune at the national selection table.
One is that the 36-year-old`s personality has not gelled with senior members of the Australian team.
Another is that he is simply on the nose with selectors after publicly questioning the selection process.
Hodge`s record is beyond question. Since his debut for Victoria at 19, he has blasted 51 first-class tons in 223 matches with a top score of 302 not out. At Test level, Hodge scored an unbeaten 203 against South Africa in his third Test, but wore the baggy green just three more times, the last against the West Indies two years ago.
His current Test record - 503 runs at 55.89 - underlines his untapped potential in an age where boom-or-bust West Australian batsman Marcus North played 21 Tests, compiling 1171 runs at 35.48.
Last month, Hodge fired a barb at the Test selectors, saying: "Xavier Doherty (Tasmanian spinner) got picked (for Australia) averaging around 48 in Sheffield Shield cricket. Michael Beer is averaging 40. My spin bowling is 41 and my spin bowling is horrible.”
"You go into your contract meeting with the representatives in Cricket Australia and it`s, ``Well, just keep doing what you`re doing. We know what you`re doing``.
"And that`s frustrating because there`s no real formal path which says, ``Well, hang on, you guys went and said go and get me 1200 runs in a Shield season``, and you do that and there`s no reward."
Former Australia Test skipper Mark Taylor said he hoped Hodge`s outspoken comments were not a noose around his neck.
"Your guess is as good as mine, but at the end of the day, he was probably more outspoken in recent years when he felt his opportunities were limited," Taylor said.
"I think back to six or eight years ago and I don`t remember him speaking out. He would just take it on the chin.”
"Sometimes we read into these things. Stuart Law, Michael Bevan, Jamie Siddons, they are other guys who in another era may have played more Test cricket.”
"In every era, there`s no doubt it has its unlucky players and there`s no doubt Brad is one of those.”