James Pattinson's likely return to fitness in time for Australia's ODI visit to England and Ireland may not be enough to get him on the trip, as the national selectors ponder whether to afford him a more comprehensive pre-Ashes scouting visit on an Australia A tour of the UK later.
Australia's coach Mickey Arthur revealed that secondary assessments of Pattinson's back injury, sustained in the field during the second Test against West Indies, indicated a probable recovery time of a little more than a month, meaning he is a strong chance to be available for the ODI tour, which begins with a warm-up against Leicester at Grace Road on June 21. Peter Siddle will have a similar recovery time from his back complaint, though the selectors have indicated a reluctance to use him in ODIs after an outstanding Test summer.
"Initial results did [make me question Pattinson's availability], the secondary results were that once our medical staff had looked at it in Melbourne and came back they were a lot more positive," Arthur said. "It is virtually the same at this stage as what Sidds has got, which means it's four or five weeks instead of three months in terms of a stress fracture. So that, I must put a little asterisk next to it, is the information we have at present. I think we'll know a lot more once Sidds and Patto get back to Melbourne and go through examinations there."
Cricket Australia's longer-term planning for the next Ashes series may yet see Pattinson given more time off before he and other possible 2013 Ashes tourists take part in an Australia A tour of England later in the northern summer. Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Ben Cutting and Josh Hazlewood are others likely to be considered for the tour, which will afford them valuable experience of first-class bowling in England a year out from the Ashes.
The Australia A expedition runs parallel to Arthur's desire for a wide range of young bowlers to be utilised in limited-overs cricket between now and the 2015 World Cup, as he gathers a squad of cricketers with plenty of relevant ODI experience ahead of the game's showpiece tournament. Reflecting on his time as coach of South Africa, Arthur said Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel were commonly rotated in and out of the limited-overs side until tournaments or series reached their most critical junctures.
"I think you've seen that more and more through the summer, it's impossible for guys to play with that intensity all the time," Arthur said. "Often Morne and Dale didn't play together in teams so we'd use one here, one here and then when it came to the big game we'd use them all.
"We tried to replicate that through our summer. We wanted to get off to a good start and then through the middle phases we tried some players and had a look at different options and rested some players. Then we felt come the final time we had our best possible team available, fit, rested, both mentally and physically and ready to go for the end of the summer. We put a lot of time and effort into trying to manage it and we'll continue to do that."
Australia's fitness and medical staff has remained unchanged since the 2010-11 Ashes series, a rare facet of CA operations not to have felt the full force of the Argus review, which instituted a raft of personnel and procedural changes around Australian cricket. The team's physios and doctors are now accountable to the performance manager Pat Howard, and Arthur said they and the developmental staff employed at the Centre of Excellence in Brisbane were working assiduously to reduce the number of injuries sustained by the nation's fast bowlers.
"Look, whether we like it or not we're going to keep picking up injuries to our quick bowlers - bowling is a bit of an unnatural thing. So that's going to happen, we've just got to learn to manage it," Arthur said. "What's going on at the CoE I think our sports scientists are all over it, they're giving us a lot of information. One thing I'd like to reiterate is yes they're giving us information but ultimately the call lies with the captain, coach and selectors as to how far we take and use that information.
"Our CoE have been very proactive, they're looking at all sorts of ways to prevent it and all sorts of workload issues. I'm comfortable that we're exploring every avenue in that and I just think it is the nature of the art of bowling. Peter Siddle came into the tour, his workloads were exactly where our medical staff wanted them. He'd played a lot of four-day cricket coming into the series [for Victoria]. James Pattinson we worked on through the whole one-day series, he was right on course in terms of his workload.
"Patto's young, we're still going to see him breaking down a little bit, that's going to be the nature of it. Sidds is probably bearing the effects of a pretty rigorous summer where he bowled a huge amount in Test cricket. Their preparation, we couldn't have done anything more or anything less around that. They had the numbers, the workloads, they had everything, and it's just disappointing that we've lost both of them now."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here