Victoria allrounder Marcus Stoinis has been called into Australia's squad for the remainder of the Test series in India after Mitchell Marsh was ruled out due to an ongoing shoulder injury. Stoinis will fly to India after the conclusion of Victoria's current Sheffield Shield match, which began in Alice Springs on Wednesday, and will arrive during Australia's 10-day break between the second and third Tests.
Marsh will head home with plenty to think about as both a bowler and a batsman. Having hurled the ball down at speeds in excess of 140kph during 2016, Marsh's pace dropped away alarmingly during a home summer in which he was also axed from the Test team due to a string of poor scores. When recalled for the India series, Marsh was withdrawn from the limited-overs squad in order to rest his shoulder in the hope of recovery.
However, in five overs across the two Tests, his pace remained in the 120kph bracket, and it is for this reason, rather than three low scores in four innings at No.6, that the selectors have been compelled to look elsewhere. "Mitch Marsh will go back to Melbourne with his shoulder," coach Darren Lehmann said after the Bengaluru Test. "We'll decide in the next day or so the replacement there, and then work out what our best XI is from there.
"He had the injury through the summer, he was fine when he got here but it just got worse. I was really happy with the way he played the second innings in Pune. It's unlucky for Mitch and we move to whoever the next person comes in. Whether we go with Usman Khawaja or Glenn Maxwell or whoever is selected, we'll wait and see."
David Beakley, the team physio, explained how Marsh's shoulder had deteriorated: "Mitchell has been playing with a shoulder injury for most of the summer, which we have been managing up until now, but unfortunately it has progressively deteriorated to a point where he is unable to function at the level required. Consequently he will return to Australia to consult with specialists to advise the best course of action."
In mid-January, when Marsh was pulled out of the ODI team, Beakley had made a remarkably similar statement: "Mitchell has had an ongoing shoulder injury which we have been managing but it is now at a point where he is unable to function at the level required. He now requires a period of rest and rehabilitation in order to return to full fitness."
Stoinis was preferred ahead of other all-round options such as Hilton Cartwright, who made his Test debut against Pakistan in the first week of January, and Moises Henriques, who played on last year's Test tour of India. Henriques has 659 Sheffield Shield runs at 65.90 this summer and Cartwright has 520 at 37.14, compared to Stoinis' more modest tally of 172 at 15.63.
However, Stoinis impressed the selectors by stepping up to international level during the recent Chappell-Hadlee ODI series in New Zealand, when he smashed an unbeaten 146 in Australia's unsuccessful chase in Auckland. There is no guarantee that Stoinis will play in India, though, with Usman Khawaja and Glenn Maxwell among the other options to replace Marsh in the XI.
The break between Tests will allow Australia's bowlers to freshen up physically, particularly the pacemen and also the spin bowler Nathan Lyon, who is battling a raw and bleeding spinning finger.
Lehmann noted the up-and-down fortunes of the left-armer Mitchell Starc in Bengaluru, but said the tourists needed to accept that his ability to strike as violently as he did on the fourth morning always came at the risk of conceding runs.
"That's what you get with a Mitchell Starc who can blow a game or change a game like he did with those wickets," Lehmann said. "You'd love him to be more consistent, but if he's more consistent then maybe he doesn't blow games apart. For us the challenge is making sure he's fresh to go and he just does what he does. You've got to take that sometimes as a coach and a captain, he might go for runs but he's going to take some key wickets for you."
Assessing the overall mood of the team following the loss of a Test they had started so strongly, Lehmann said it was important for the tourists to move on quickly, given that the surface for the third match in Ranchi was likely to offer up an outright result once again.
"They're pretty good. We had a bad 33 overs [on day four], so you've got to move on quite quickly," he said. "We've got a break, it's been a long summer and we've come here with the challenge of retaining the trophy first and foremost, we're very close but not good enough. We've got to regroup quickly for Ranchi.
"I presume the wicket will be very similar and that's a great thing, you know there's going to be a result when you rock up for the game, so for us to be on the right side of the ledger if that makes sense and play well. If you'd said to us 1-1 after two Test matches you're not in a bad position, barring not getting enough runs [on final day]. Pleased where we're at, we've got to play well next Test match."