Australia 'very much consider' Maxwell as frontline spin option

There is no specific target for Head's comeback, but he isn't expected to be available until at least midway through the World Cup group stage

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
Glenn Maxwell has been backed to play the role of a frontline spinner for Australia during the World Cup after they opted not to replace the injured Ashton Agar like-for-like. They instead brought in Marnus Labuschagne to provide batting cover as Travis Head recovers from his broken hand.
It means that Maxwell and Adam Zampa are Australia's only genuine spin options among their 14 fit players given that Steven Smith barely bowls anymore and Labuschagne's legspin has faded in recent years. Should Head recover and be able to bowl, his offspin would provide a valuable option.
There is yet to be a specific target for Head's comeback, but he isn't expected to be available until at least midway through the group stage.
Maxwell took a career-best 4 for 40 in the final ODI against India in Rajkot, and although he averages 47.71 in ODIs, national selector George Bailey believes his bowling should not be underestimated.
"Think it's unfair on Maxi to say he's not a specialist spinner," Bailey said. "Think his white-ball spinning record is pretty handy and you could very much consider him a frontline option. We certainly consider that we have two frontline spinners within our first-choice XI.
"More broadly across the squad, when you are limited to 15 [players], there are compromises that you have to weigh up [and] which way to want to take a risk. That was all the considerations that we had to take. We certainly think that Zamps and Maxi can do a really good job for us as the frontline spinners and we've still got plenty of options for quicks and back-up allrounders."
Maxwell's outing in Rajkot was only his second ODI since suffering a badly broken leg last year and there have been concerns about how he would cope with an intense World Cup schedule after pulling up with an ankle problem on Australia's first day of training in South Africa last month.
However, Bailey praised the work Maxwell has put in to get himself ready for the tournament although did suggest there may be times when he is given a break from the more high-intensity fielding positions he has traditionally occupied.
"Glenn's been so dynamic across his one-day career, not only his ability with bat and ball but just the positions he puts himself in the field. So there's been a high workload there," Bailey said. "There may be games here - and not just this tournament, but maybe Glenn for the rest of his career - where he doesn't have to go to the hot spots, or he might have some games where we can find some quieter spots for him in the field. That's something we'll weigh up from game to game.
"From mapping out with Glenn...what the build-up to this tournament would look like, he's done a power of work around trying to get some strength and functionality back into that leg. Fingers crossed that's all tracking well."
In terms of Head's potential return, Bailey conceded there was still an element of the unknown but the prospect of what he could bring later in the tournament was too strong to ignore.
"We were aware of the risk that if there is a setback at some point that it makes it really challenging for Trav, but he's a really important player for us," he said. "We'll be getting the information of how he's recovering as the bone starts to heel, but we'll clearly be able to see how we are progressing in the tournament and how that's working out as well. Those two will hopefully marry up at some point."
Mitchell Marsh will be able to bowl at the start of the World Cup and should get a run during the warm-up games having not been used against South Africa or India. The plan had been for him to have a run in Rajkot but his 96 in stifling conditions led to a conservative approach.
"Would have been nice for Mitch to get a bowl the other night but he was a bit cooked after batting," Bailey said. "He has been doing a lot of bowling in the background."
Bailey admitted Australia's lead-in to the World Cup had been far from ideal with a lengthy injury list to manage amid a hectic schedule where they have played eight ODIs in South Africa and India.
"We've had a lot of cricket and probably a few more moving parts than we'd ideally like this close to a World Cup," he said. "[It's] been a little bit of a challenge through some of the one-day series we've had over the last couple of years, the timing of them has meant quite often they've come at the back of big Test series.
"One way to look at it is we haven't had the chance to put together what you might consider our first-choice XI too often. The great benefit of that is it's also provided some opportunity for some players who have forced their way into what is our first choice XI, so that's been great."
That balancing act will continue in the two warm-up matches, especially the first one against Netherlands on Saturday, with Bailey joking about the need for reinforcements.
"It will be a bit of an all-hands-on-deck one, particularly early coming off this India series. There's a few sore bodies and a lot of cricket to be played," he said. "If you're an Australian in Kerala and you'd like a game of cricket, feel free to wander down tomorrow."

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo