When Australia
walks onto ground today to play Sri Lanka
in the first of this year’s one-day internationals, it’s also another stage of
the journey to the 2007 World Cup.

The Australian selectors have all but
admitted that this series and the year’s remaining one-dayers are trials for
the squad that will compete in the West
Indies next year. For some players – Brad
Hogg chief among them – that will lead to mixed feelings.

If Shane Warne makes himself available for
selection, as looks increasingly likely, it’s hard to see the energetic Hogg standing
in his way. So all of Hogg’s great work over the past few years – including his
outstanding efforts in the last World Cup after Warney was sent home in
disgrace – will be cast aside.

Matthew Hayden poses another interesting
question for selectors. Pressure is mounting to include him simply because of
his prolific run scoring. But again, such a move would have to come at the cost
of someone like Simon Katich, or maybe even Michael Clarke, players who have
done little wrong.

So would the return of Warne and Hayden
improve our World Cup prospects? In at least one regard, definitely not. As
anyone with even a passing interest in one-day cricket knows, that form of the
game is not only about doing the job with the bat or ball. These days, both
Warne and Hayden are specialist slips fielders. A team might be able to afford to carry one lumbering fielder in today’s
one-day cricket – even with the supersub rule it can be a huge disadvantage –
but definitely not two.

On the other hand, both Hayden and Warne
are experienced, cool-headed and in cracking form. It’s an intriguing conundrum
for selectors.

If they are realistic chances, you’d expect
them to make an appearance in the one-day squad on the tour of South
Africa at the latest. And therein lies the interest for fans beyond
is likely to be yet another instantly forgettable one-day series this
Will the recent experiments with newcomers like Mick Lewis, Cameron
White and
Brett Dorey, or another spinner in Dan Cullen, result in lasting
changes to the
team? Is the batting line-up settled? What of Brad Hodge? Does all the
about Warne and Hayden place guys like Katich and Hogg under greater

Australia’s next generation of cricketers must be torn. There’s every chance
they’ll be selected at any moment, but the equal likelihood they’ll be bumped
from glory at the last minute by one of the old guard. It’s going to be a
fascinating few months around the selection table.