Starc's sore calf opens door for Richardson
Mitchell Starc is out of the second ODI against Sri Lanka on Sunday and may miss further matches beyond after complaining of calf soreness following Australia's opening win at the MCG. The South Australian fast bowler Kane Richardson has been called into the squad as cover.
As the most durable of Australia's young fast bowlers over the past year, Starc has played successfully for the national side across three formats without injury since his Test debut against New Zealand in late 2011. However his spell of six overs in Melbourne, returning the figures of 1 for 25, resulted in the calf complaint.
The injury marks an unfortunate point in the summer for Australia's fast bowlers, meaning every paceman in the first Test squad of the season has suffered an injury of some kind.
James Pattinson was first to break down with a side injury, Peter Siddle missed the Perth Test due to a hamstring problem, and Josh Hazlewood had foot stress hot spots uncovered while bowling in the WACA ground nets. Ben Hilfenhaus suffered side injury in Hobart, Shane Watson fell prey to a calf strain in Melbourne, and now Starc has suffered similarly.
While the Australian team physio Alex Kountouris described the problem as minor, calf trouble is infamously stubborn, as Watson can attest after suffering a string of the injuries in recent times. "Mitchell Starc had some mild right calf soreness after the match at the MCG last night," Kountouris said.
"Whilst we are not majorly concerned about it, we have withdrawn him from the game on Sunday as a precaution. He will be reassessed over the next few days and is a possibility to play next weekend's matches against Sri Lanka if his symptoms resolve."
If Starc's withdrawal is another blow to Australia's efforts to reduce the amount of injuries suffered by their fast bowlers, Richardson's call-up is a reward for some of the more eye-catching performances in domestic limited overs matches this summer, including one haul of 6 for 48 at Adelaide Oval.
"Kane has been called in as cover in the squad due to his impressive form in the limited overs formats this season," the national selector John Inverarity said. "This provides another great opportunity for a young player as we look to build towards Cricket World Cup in 2015."
A part of Australia's winning Under 19 World Cup team in 2010, 21-year-old Richardson has impressed many with his speed, aggression and the ability to fire in a mean yorker. He may now get the chance to debut for Australia on his home ground.
Should Richardson be included he will, like the rest, benefit from the guidance provided by Brad Haddin's presence in the dressing room. The captain George Bailey said Haddin's influence had been notable in preparation for the opening match, helping a team of players getting used to the international game learn from a player with years of war stories to tell.
"One of the challenges with the group is the lack of experience," Bailey said. "Having someone as composed as Brad is, not only on the ground but off the ground in the way he sets up for the game, the way he prepares, it's something that I take a lot out of. The debutants and the guys who have played even less than I have would certainly get a lot out of the way he is.
"I thought he kept beautifully, and even the way he batted, I thought Sri Lanka bowled quite well at the back end of their innings, but he and David Hussey just found a way to keep that score ticking over and that was really important to get that score up around 300."
Bailey was also satisfied by the way his men had blunted the threats posed by Lasith Malinga and Ajantha Mendis. Both Malinga and Mendis were expected to be the major threats to Australia's batting, but were to return the poorly combined figures of 2 for 123 from 20 overs, something Bailey attributed partly to the new ODI rule limiting the fielding side to four fielders outside the circle at any one time.
"It's certainly good for our confidence, that we stuck to our plans on how to play both of them," Bailey said. "One of the advantages we will have for a brief little period is that we've played the four out rule for a season and a half domestically.
"That's something that we may have adjusted a little bit better to, whereas I'm not sure those guys have been exposed to that much. That does take a little bit of adjustment and a little bit of re-jigging of your plans. I certainly expect them to bounce back. For our confidence, to be able to pick off their best bowlers like that was really good."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here