File photo of Australian fast bowler Mitchell Starc. (Getty Images)
Melbourne: Fast bowler Mitchell Starc leads a list of 20 players under captain Michael Clarke named to Cricket Australia's contracted list for the 2013-14 season which includes back-to-back Ashes series and follows the team's demoralising four-Test defeat in India.
Left-armer Starc, who frequently led Australia in all forms of the game, including some strong batting performances, was reported to have been one of the big winners with a $1 million contract. Highest-paid Clarke earns about $2 million a season. Former captain Ricky Ponting and veteran batsman Michael Hussey, who were on last year's list of 17, have retired. David Hussey, Michael's 35-year-old brother, was not included after the selectors' decision to concentrate on younger players.
Paceman Jackson Bird, allrounder Moises Henriques, Usman Khawaja and Steve Smith also missed out on contracts, but they remain under consideration for the Ashes and one-day selection. George Bailey, Ed Cowan, James Faulkner, Phillip Hughes, Glenn Maxwell and Clint McKay all retained their places after earning upgrades during the last contract period.
National selector John Inverarity said on Wednesday the list reflects the focus on the Ashes after a "poor" India tour. "Speaking with Michael Clarke and others we're all very excited about the Ashes and our focus is very much on that at the moment," Inverarity said. "I think our pace bowling is likely to be good. I think the wickets in England are likely to suit us more than they did in India. But we need to get greater stability in our top six in the batting."
David Hussey's international career appears over. He has played 69 one-day matches and 39 Twenty20s for Australia, and held out a slight hope of making the Test squad. "I'd never say never about anybody," Inverarity said. "But it is an indication that we are looking towards grooming some younger players. And as we all appreciate, we are very much in a transition stage in Australian cricket. We are looking to give experience to those young players we think will come through."
For the first time, Australia and England will play back-to-back Ashes series - 10 consecutive Tests. The first of five Tests in England begins July 10 at Trent Bridge in Nottingham. The first Test in Australia begins November 21 at Brisbane's Gabba ground.
Australia contract list: George Bailey, Michael Clarke, Ed Cowan, Patrick Cummins, Xavier Doherty, James Faulkner, Brad Haddin, Ryan Harris, Ben Hilfenhaus, Phillip Hughes, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, Clint McKay, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Shane Watson.