Arthur admits Warner Ashes 'risk'
Australia coach Mickey Arthur has conceded it would be a gamble to select David Warner for the first Investec Ashes Test at Trent Bridge, which starts on July 10, given the batsman will not have played any competitive cricket in the preceding month. Warner was stood down from the team after throwing a punch at Joe Root in a Birmingham bar on Sunday night, and has since been suspended from playing for Australia until the first Test of the series.
Australia are scheduled to play two four-day tour matches ahead of the series, and may yet progress to the knockout stages of the ongoing Champions Trophy. Warner has not played any Test cricket since Australia's ill-fated tour of India, in March.
"Hypothetically, it would be a risk," Arthur said. "He wouldn't have had any cricket - but he would have had training. We've got plans to give him some centre-wicket practice. I guess it's an opportunity for other members in the squad to stand up in the first two practice games, because if they do that, they've got a real good chance of starting that first Test.
"A centre-wicket is the only way we can almost replicate match conditions. That's what we'll be trying to do with Dave while the boys are playing against Somerset and Worcestershire."
Warner has already switched to a Test training programme while his team-mates prepare for the virtual quarter-final against Sri Lanka, and Arthur outlined a commitment to accommodating Warner's unique situation at training in the next few weeks.
"We've got to give David the first possible chance and the best possible preparation to be ready for the first Test match - if we select him. He comes down early and we get our work done with him. He's now gone from the white ball to the red ball. He's working daily on that and I think that's right. We've got to service our player to make sure that he's ready to go, come the Ashes."
Arthur was reluctant to explain how details of the incident on Sunday night were relayed to team management, choosing to label those details "irrelevant", as Michael Clarke had the previous day. He was, however, keen to impress that the attack and its repercussions have not detracted from his side's preparations at the front-end of a long tour.
"I certainly think Dave has put it behind him. He's learnt a big lesson that will hopefully work in the right way for him. The squad is totally focused on the cricket and we all are. That's what we're here for: to have a big English summer. Nothing will deter us from that."
Australia's chances of qualifying for the Champions Trophy semi-finals are to some extent dependent on the outcome of Sunday's clash between England and New Zealand. If New Zealand are the victors, Australia enter a straightforward shootout with Sri Lanka but if England win, they must beat Sri Lanka well enough to outdo New Zealand's net run-rate, which, at present, is the best in the group.
Sri Lanka have had a marginal edge over Australia in ODIs in the last 18 months, winning 6 of their last 10 matches - all of which were played in Australia. Arthur said defusing Lasith Malinga's yorkers and conquering Sri Lanka's experienced top order would be key to overcoming the opposition.
"Malinga is a phenomenon. He's the best death bowler in the world without a doubt at the moment," he said. "We're very fortunate to have played Sri Lanka a lot over the last 15 months. We've had two one-day series against them. All our players have faced quite a bit of Malinga and we'll have our plans, come the game.
"You talk about the big three in Sri Lanka's batting; Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. Sri Lanka have built up a really nice unit. They've got some good players in all different areas of their team who scrap hard. We know we've got to be really on our money."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here