Australia central contracts offer hint for Ashes

A raft of players have been given new deals

Australia offered a hint of what their Ashes touring party could look like today as they unveiled a list of centrally contracted players.

Jackson Bird, Steve Smith, Moises Henriques and Usman Khawaja were among the high-profile players left off the 20-player list.

Retirements meant Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey were omitted, with paceman Mitchell Starc believed to be among the biggest beneficiaries after receiving a major contract upgrade.

Victorian veteran David Hussey was the other player from last year's original list not offered a contract.

Twenty20 captain George Bailey, incumbent Test batsmen Ed Cowan and Phil Hughes, Tasmanian young gun James Faulkner, Victorian all-rounder Glenn Maxwell and Clint McKay are among the notable inclusions.

Australia face England in a five-match Ashes series beginning at Trent Bridge on July 10, and then take on their old foes at home over a further five Tests at the end of the year.

The contracted list was chosen by Cricket Australia (CA) chairman of selectors John Inverarity, together with Rod Marsh, Andy Bichel and coach Mickey Arthur.

Inverarity said: "Jackson Bird, Moises Henriques, Usman Khawaja and Steve Smith were all very close to making this contract list.

"And we expect them to take opportunities that are presented across formats to represent Australia and make a case for an upgrade to a CA contract, as the year unfolds.

"(Victorian) Aaron Finch hasn't made the contract list on this occasion but the NSP [national selection panel] hopes he will make a case for future inclusion through his performances."

Inverarity added: "Of the 20 players on the 2013-14 contract list all currently hold a CA playing contract.

"The 17 players initially contracted for the 2012-13 season played a significant role in selections across the various formats during the season. Those upgraded to the contract list during the season all proved their worth.

"Six of the nine players upgraded to the contract list during the 2012-13 season have been rewarded with contracts for the full 2013-14 season, these being George Bailey, Ed Cowan, James Faulkner, Phillip Hughes, Glenn Maxwell and Clint McKay.

"All of these players staked their claims for a contract for the 2013-14 period by way of their performances and the expectation of the role they will play during the coming 12 months."

The list includes just six specialist batsmen, with Inverarity openly expressing concerns over the lack of batting depth in Australian cricket.

He challenged Hughes, who struggled in India, to take his game to new heights over the coming months.

"Phillip Hughes has made a lot of runs throughout the past 12 months and is a young player who we are looking to become a reliable and prolific run-scorer, while Ed Cowan worked hard in the last 12 months to earn an upgrade and the panel feel that he is deserving of selection on this list for the coming year," Inverarity said.

Contracted players: George Bailey, Michael Clarke, Ed Cowan, Pat Cummins, Xavier Doherty, James Faulkner, Brad Haddin, Ryan Harris, Ben Hilfenhaus, Phil Hughes, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, Clint McKay, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Shane Watson.