National coach Justin Langer expects former captain Steve Smith to be fit for the World Cup after Australia’s preparations for its title defence were thrown into further turmoil with Mitchell Starc ruled out of the tour of India with a “substantial” muscle tear.
Selectors named a bolter in Ashton Turner, who is in line to make his one-day international debut after being rewarded for his strong form for Perth Scorchers, while fellow Big Bash League star D’Arcy Short has been given another chance to stake his World Cup claims.
Short has been called in as cover for Shaun Marsh, who will join the tour for the final three ODIs after the birth of his second child. He also has a hamstring issue.
There were a further three changes from the squad which faced India at home last month with Peter Siddle, Billy Stanlake and Mitchell Marsh missing out, while pacemen Kane Richardson and Nathan Coulter-Nile return.
Starc is not expected to need surgery to repair the pectoral muscle he tore while bowling on Monday in Canberra. He joins Josh Hazlewood on the sidelines, leaving Pat Cummins as the only member of the big three fit for Australia’s penultimate series before they start their World Cup defence. Cummins has been named vice-captain alongside Alex Carey.
There was no room for Matthew Wade despite his excellent form in all formats at domestic level.
Usman Khawaja and Peter Handscomb will need strong series to fight off the expected challenge from David Warner and Smith, whose suspensions end next month. Both men are recovering from elbow surgery with Smith’s injury the more severe.
“They’re both great players. Not very good players but two great players. We’ll be from day one looking at their transition back to Australian cricket,” Langer said on Thursday.
“I hope it will be as seamless as we can possibly expect.
“They don’t need to impress us with what they’ve done in the past – their records speak for itself. They need to play some cricket, we’ll be looking for whatever opportunities we can to get them playing as much cricket as they can before the World Cup.”
Starc finished the Test summer with 10 wickets in a player-of-the-match performance this week but it has come at significant cost.
The left-armer was dominant in Australia’s World Cup success four years ago and though his form has since dipped he has remained a first-choice bowler.
“Unfortunately, scans have revealed that Mitchell Starc sustained a substantial tear to his left pec muscle while bowling on the final day of the Test match in Canberra,” national selector Trevor Hohns said.
“This means he will be unavailable for the Tour of India, but we will instead target a return to play for the ODI series against Pakistan in the UAE in March.”
Starc’s injury has paved the way for Kane Richardson to return having not played for his country since the limited overs tour of England last year.
“Kane has been in outstanding form over the summer, including his recent performances in the BBL,” Hohns said.
“Kane not only has experience playing ODI cricket for Australia, but he’s also performed well for his country when given the opportunity.
“Nathan Coulter-Nile provides us with another quality bowling option, he brings good energy in the field and can also score runs in high pressure situations.
“Peter Siddle and Mitch Marsh are unfortunate to miss out, but our message throughout the summer remains true, with such a big schedule ahead opportunities may well present themselves.”
Selectors will wait until later in the series against India to name a squad for the matches against Pakistan.
Squad: Aaron Finch (c), Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Glenn Maxwell, Ashton Turner, Marcus Stoinis, Alex Carey (vc), Pat Cummins (vc), Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Lyon, Adam Zampa, D’Arcy Short (cover for Marsh)