Australia's World Cup plans have been thrown into further disarray with the news that Adam Gilchrist is to miss the first three weeks of the tournament to attend the birth of his third child. Gilchrist's wife, Mel, is due to give birth just days before the squad flies out from Sydney on February 28.
Already missing Andrew Symonds through injury, and unsettled by the manner of their shocking defeat to England in the CB Series finals, Australia will have to make do without their wicketkeeper and opening bat at least until their final Group A match against South Africa in St Kitts on March 24.
The news means that Brad Haddin will be announced as Australia's wicketkeeper for the warm-up matches and opening fixtures, when the 15-man squad is officially announced later on Tuesday. According to The Australian newspaper, Mike Hussey will take over the gloves in the event of an injury to Haddin.
Even when Gilchrist returns, Haddin will be worth his place in the squad as a specialist batsman, after a prolific domestic season. He has top-scored in the Ford Ranger Cup with 406 runs at 67.67, and he is also the fourth most prolific batsman in the Pura Cup, with 669 runs at 55.75.
"It's such an important tournament that my leaning is to take a second specialist wicketkeeper, but that second specialist wicketkeeper has to offer us more than just wicketkeeping," said John Buchanan. "It has to be able to offer us batting potential and probably top-seven material. That's my personal leaning and I've expressed that to the selectors."
Shaun Tait, meanwhile, has been tipped to nudge Stuart Clark out of the reckoning for the fifth and final fast-bowling slot. Last week Clark, who was Australia's find of the 2006 Test season, sought clarification from the selectors for his continued omission in spite of some exceptional domestic form.