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Stars fade from Twenty20 vision

Australia's commitment to hosting its maiden Twenty20 international next week has waned to the extent that it will field a team almost as unfamiliar to fans as the newest incarnation of the game..

Australia's commitment to hosting its maiden Twenty20 international next week has waned to the extent that it will field a team almost as unfamiliar to fans as the newest incarnation of the game.

Vice-captain Adam Gilchrist and pace bowlers Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee will be rested from Monday's 20-over frolic against South Africa in Brisbane.

In their place, selectors named reserve wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, all-rounder James Hopes and unheralded seamers Michael Lewis and Mitchell Johnson in their 12-man squad for the twilight game.

The decision to spell three of Australia's most charismatic drawcards from the much-hyped fixture confirms Twenty20's status on the international schedule as pantomime.

Cricket Australia could not feasibly argue otherwise after the precedent it set before last month's three-match Chappell-Hadlee Trophy one-day series in New Zealand.

After chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns approached Gilchrist and invited him to sit out that limited-overs tournament, CA officials suddenly revoked the offer and insisted the overworked keeper-batsman tour.

The rationale was that, by withdrawing Gilchrist in addition to McGrath (who was allowed to skip the New Zealand series), the integrity of the fledgling annual limited-overs battle would be undermined.

Obviously, Twenty20 has no such repute and has therefore been justifiably ranked as dispensable by the selectors although host broadcaster, the Nine Network, may not share their enthusiasm for CA's status downgrade.

"Twenty20 cricket is still a bit of an unknown to us, but we have tried to keep as much of the one-day squad together as possible," Hohns said yesterday.

"Having said that, Brett Lee, Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist have not been selected in order to enable each of them to freshen up before the VB Series (which begins in Melbourne on January 13).

"Brett, Glenn and Adam have worked particularly hard during the Melbourne and Sydney Test matches, and we want to manage each of their respective workloads carefully."

Australia's three most recent Test rejects - Damien Martyn, Simon Katich and Michael Clarke - have all been named for the slogging exhibition which lasts for barely three hours in total.

Martyn missed the New Zealand tour because of a fractured right ring finger, while Hopes replaces Victorian all-rounder Cameron White in the squad that secured the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy 2-1.

Michael Hussey's status as Australia's new glamour boy was officially endorsed when he was named as Ricky Ponting's deputy in the absence of Gilchrist despite being a regular international player for less than a year.

"This is certainly a feather in his (Hussey's) cap," Hohns said.

"He has done an excellent job in the one-day format, and we have every confidence that he has the necessary ingredients to take on this additional responsibility."

Meanwhile, injured Test all-rounder Shane Watson expects to return to the field within three weeks having made a better-than-expected recovery from a dislocated right shoulder.

Watson, whose enforced absence paved the way for Andrew Symonds' recall to the Test line-up, returned to the practice nets on Monday for the first time since he damaged the joint in a fielding mishap during the first Test against the West Indies in November. The 24-year-old has been undergoing an intensive four-hour physiotherapy regime every day over the past three weeks and is aiming to make his comeback for Queensland this month.

"I just started batting at the beginning of this week and I've been rolling my arm over as well and if everything continues to go well I hope to be back playing in two or three weeks," Watson said yesterday. "I'm probably about three or four weeks ahead of schedule."

Australia's Twenty20 team: Simon Katich, Michael Hussey, Ricky Ponting (c), Damien Martyn, Andrew Symonds, Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin, James Hopes, Nathan Bracken, Stuart Clark, Mick Lewis, Mitchell Johnson (12th man to be named)

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