Australia's selectors have taken a hammering over the dumping of Simon Katich with his likely replacement as test opener Phil Hughes and captain Michael Clarke suffering collateral damage in the process.
Katich, 35, was omitted from the list of 25 players awarded central contracts by Cricket Australia for the 2011-12 season on Tuesday, signalling the likely end of his 56-Test career.
The gritty opener has kept his counsel but former players and media pundits have lined up to take shots at chief selector Andrew Hilditch and his panel, who are still reeling from the volley of criticism they received after the Ashes debacle.
"He's got that guts, grit, determination, he is an old-fashioned cricketer," former Test opener Michael Slater told the Australian newspaper.
"To me he sums up what test cricket is all about. They have shown him no support whatever. Statistically for the past three years he has been our best performer."
Slater said 22-year-old Hughes, who joined Shane Watson in Australia's opening partnership when Katich was injured in the second Ashes Test against England last December, had hardly "set the world alight".
"It hasn't happened, it's not even close to happening, so you are saying to the most prolific run scorer for the past three years 'you are too old, move on'," he added.
"The selectors are going down the worst line, the most dangerous line, and it has got to the point where Andrew Hilditch as chairman of selectors has to go. This is the final straw. It is a ludicrous decision."
Former Australia batsman Mark Waugh was more measured in his thoughts but suggested that Katich probably still had something to offer with Australia taking on South Africa and India this year.
"Given his record it's got to be a bit of a shock to everybody," Waugh told Fox Sports.
"There are some tough series ahead and that's why it's even more of a reason why it's a tough decision to drop Katich because he's been our most successful player at the top there."
The selectors defended Katich's axing by saying they were looking to bed in a new opening partnership before the next Ashes series in 2013.
The Sydney Morning Herald's Richard Hinds said the selectors had belatedly embraced the idea of regenerating the team and Katich had been made a "sacrificial ram" for the concept.
Hinds said Katich's decision not to play the shorter forms of the game since 2006 had hurt him given the contracted players are expected to form the core of the Australia team in one-day and Twenty20 as well as tests.
"The weighting now given to one-day specialists makes Katich's omission an ominous sign for the specialist test player," he wrote.
Australia kick off the season with a tour of Sri Lanka and their caretaker coach Stuart Law said he was delighted that Katich was unlikely to face his team.
"Just knowing the character of Simon - I'm very pleased he's not on that list," he told the Herald.
"He has been a fantastic servant, recently the most consistent opening batsman Australia's had for the last five years. It is a surprising omission."
Cricket Australia moved quickly to quash suggestions that new captain Michael Clarke, who was involved in a dressing room row with Katich a few years ago, was behind the decision.
"It's absolute nonsense," said a spokesman. "It's hardly worth dignifying with a response."
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