Cricket World Cup: Australian selectors happy to take a risk on Travis Head

Australian selection chief George Bailey says the value Travis Head could provide at the back-end of the World Cup outweighed the risk of taking an injured player into a massive tournament with so many of his teammates also underdone.

Head was picked in Australia’s final 15-man squad for the tournament that begins next week despite still being at home in Adelaide rehabilitating after suffering a broken hand during the recent series against South Africa.

Australia has injury replacements in India with Matthew Short considered the like-for-like replacement for Head given his capacity to open the batting and bowl off-spin.

The World Cup stretches Australia’s matches over 44 days from the opening match against India on October 8 and there’s no timeline on a potential return for Head, but there’s hope he could be available midway through the tournament.

Having formed a formidable opening partnership with David Warner, Head was worth keeping in the squad for now, Bailey said.

“We are aware of the risks that if there is a setback at some point it makes it really challenging for Trav, but he’s a really important player for us,” Bailey said from India on Friday.

“First and foremost it’s about him recovering and that‘s the hurdle that he’s got to overcome. He’s got a broken bone, so there’s not a specific date or a game.

“I don’t think we’ve put a timeframe on it from that point of view.

“When he does come online whenever that is and he’s available, he can have a really important impact for us towards the end of the tour.”

Australia’s preparation for the tournament has been hampered by wrist injuries to captain Pat Cummins and Steve Smith, a groin and shoulder issue for Mitchell Starc, and a leg issue for all-rounder Glenn Maxwell.

Both Starc and Maxwell returned to play in the final ODI against India on Wednesday.

After spinner Ashton Agar was also left out having failed to overcome a calf injury, Maxwell’s spin bowling becomes ultra important with Adam Zampa the only frontline spinner in the squad.

Bailey said they rated Maxwell better than a part-timer but could be conscious of his workload given his interrupted lead-in.

“I’m not sure it’s fair on Maxi to say he’s not a specialist spinner. I think his white-ball one-day and T20 spinning record is pretty handy,” Bailey said.

“And I think we can very much consider him a frontline option, so we consider that we’ve got two frontline spinners within our first-choice XI.”

Maxwell said he felt “fresh” after taking 4-40 against India on Wednesday night and would be World Cup ready.

“It’s been a lot of hard work. The South Africa tour was a little bit of a setback, but it probably sped things up as well,” he said.

“I was able to get home and get an injection and get into my rehab. I feel like I’m in a decent place. I feel fresh. I feel like I’ve come into this World Cup nice and fresh and I’m excited to hit the ground running.”

Australia’s 2023 ODI World Cup fixtures

Warm-up match: September 30: v Netherlands, Thiruvananthapuram (D/N), 7.30pm AEDT

Warm-up match: October 3: v Pakistan, Hyderabad (D/N), 7.30pm AEDT

October 8: v India, Chennai (D/N), 7.30pm AEDT

October 12: v South Africa, Lucknow (D/N), 7.30pm AEDT

October 16: v Sri Lanka, Lucknow (D/N), 7.30pm AEDT

October 20: v Pakistan, Bengaluru (D/N), 7.30pm AEDT

October 25: v Netherlands, Delhi (D/N), 7.30pm AEDT

October 28: v New Zealand, Dharamsala, 4pm AEDT

November 4: v England, Ahmedabad (D/N), 7.30pm AEDT

November 7: v Afghanistan, Mumbai (D/N), 7.30pm AEDT

November 11: v Bangladesh, Pune, 4pm AEDT

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