By Stuart McDill
SYDNEY (Reuters) - The shallow depth of Australia's cricketing stocks were exposed on Wednesday with selectors being forced to recall two 35-year-olds in an attempt to wrest back the Ashes from England in July.
Veteran wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, who had been dumped last year, and top-order batsman Chris Rogers, who had played just one test in 2008, were named in a 16-man squad for the first of back-to-back Ashes series against England.
Haddin will reclaim the vice-captaincy from Shane Watson, who relinquished the post earlier this week but still made the Ashes squad as a batting all-rounder, while the uncapped James Faulkner was named the bowling all-rounder.
"The most impressive thing about Brad is that he ... continues to put form on the board," Australia captain Michael Clarke told a news conference in Sydney on Wednesday.
"His leadership and his experience will play a large part in this group ... the best teams in the world have a good mix of youth and experience and I think this squad of 16 has that mix.
"I'm confident that we have a good group of players that can learn from each other."
Australia's planning and confidence to regain the Ashes from Alastair Cook's side when the first game begins at Trent Bridge in Nottingham on July 10 suffered a massive dent last month when they were hammered 4-0 in the test series in India.
The result on the sub-continent, however, was merely a manifestation of the loss of experience and world class talent from the side that dominated the game for more than a decade from the early-1990s.
The trickle of retirements from that side, which included greats like Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist, ended with former captain Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey calling time on their international careers over the Australian summer.
That lack of experience was ruthlessly exposed in India last month, a result that forced Clarke to defend the team on Wednesday when asked if it was the weakest Ashes side ever selected.
"Since I've taken over the captaincy of the Australian cricket team I think I've heard that every tour so this will be no different," Clarke added.
"I think we will always pay our respects to the English team.
"They are a very strong team, playing in their own back yard they are even stronger so there's no doubt about that but I think with this squad we have the talent, the experience and the youth to go over there and have success.
"Now, our goal playing for Australia every time we walk out onto the field is to win every game you play and this tour will be no different."
Chairman of selectors John Inverarity conceded earlier this month the Australian side were lacking in batting depth, which had probably tipped the selectors in Rogers' favour.
The 35-year-old, who made 19 runs on debut against India in 2008, had produced strong domestic form while playing first-class cricket in England over the last few seasons.
"We believed that Chris Rogers was very deserving of selection ... but with Michael and Ricky going there is a gap in experience and Chris fills that," Inverarity said.
"He has scored, I think, nearly 20,000 first class runs ... and he has performed in (English) conditions."
Haddin's recall was less of a surprise and had been widely predicted by local media earlier on Wednesday.
The 35-year-old had been dumped from the test team last year when he returned from a tour of West Indies because his daughter had fallen ill.
Matthew Wade was promoted in his stead and had seemingly sealed the berth for the long term as the selectors looked to focus on younger players in an effort to regain the Ashes.
A poor run with the bat and behind the stumps on turning wickets in India, however, put pressure on the 25-year-old Wade, which was not helped when he suffered a leg injury and was replaced by Haddin in the third test in Mohali.
Inverarity said Haddin's experience against England - his career average is 35.50 in 44 tests but 45.57 against England in nine matches - had swung the selection as the first choice wicketkeeper-batsman on the Ashes tour "about a week ago", though Wade was still very much in their future planning.
"Matthew Wade remains very highly regarded by the selection panel," Inverarity said. "Brad is the man for the Ashes, but Matthew remains very highly regarded."
(Writing by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Peter Rutherford/Patrick Johnston)