Australia v India: Justin Langer may rope Test stars into tour match

Sport

Justin Langer has addressed Cricket Australia’s board about the challenges of playing the sport in the Covid-19 era amid an alarming injury toll ahead of the four-Test series.

Australia suffered a six-wicket loss to India in the second Twenty20, meaning the tourists will shoot for a fourth consecutive win over Langer’s team when they clash in Sydney on Tuesday night.

The vast majority of Australia’s Test squad were then expected to relocate to Adelaide, bypassing a pink-ball tour game between Australia A and India at the SCG that starts on Friday.

But Langer, reeling from a week of injury hell that started with David Warner’s groin strain, admits it is now “very, very tempting” for more players to stay in Sydney for what could be an all-star dress rehearsal for the first Test.

Mitch Swepson, who was preparing to play the tour game that started on Sunday when he received a call to rush to Canberra for a T20 after Ashton Agar tweaked his calf, is one Test squad member whose plans have already been rejigged.

Nathan Lyon has also recently been called into Australia’s T20 squad. Warner, Agar, Pat Cummins (rested), Josh Hazlewood (back), Mitchell Starc (family reasons), Aaron Finch (glute) were all unavailable for the second T20.

Marcus Stoinis returned from his side strain on Sunday, but did not bowl. Stand-in skipper Matthew Wade suggested Hazlewood was being given a “bit of rest”, having played all four preceding white-ball games.

Hazlewood is among Australia’s IPL stars who had a unique preparation for the home summer, spending a fortnight in hotel quarantine after a long couple of months in overseas biosecurity bubbles.

“I actually addressed the CA board the other day,” Langer said. “One of the challenges we’ve got with such tight schedules … we’ve got six injuries now, which is really unusual. We’ll obviously review it.

“That’s one of the challenges moving forward, when guys are playing all the tours [and have] different sorts of preparations. Each injury has its own individual reasons but that’s one of the challenges. There’s other challenges.”

Hazlewood and Cummins have to quickly build up sufficient workloads for a big Test summer. Langer fired back at suggestions he should have recalled Cummins on Sunday night, declaring it was not possible, nor a good idea.

“Some of the simplicity of our past lives is not there. There has to be isolation [periods before joining the squad] … we couldn’t bring him back,” Langer said.

“We’re always considering the big picture. We know we’ve got a big Test series coming up. There’s been a lot of talk about Pat not playing but … if he hadn’t spent a few days at home in this period then he might not have gone home until June.”

Cummins flew out for Australia’s tour of England in August. “For any critics out there, imagine not going home for that period of time,” Langer said. “We’re going to manage him and make sure we’re ready for the Test series.”

Wade led the side in Finch’s absence on Sunday, with former captain Steve Smith again overlooked for a leadership role. Smith was banned from leadership roles for two years after the ball-tampering scandal in Cape Town in 2018 but the ban expired in March.

Langer said Smith was among “a number” considered before selectors opted for Wade.

“There’s a lot of process, probably, to go through before [Smith] becomes captain again,” he said. “He’s doing all the right things to show leadership without the title at the moment.”

Meanwhile, Will Pucovski and Joe Burns’ much hyped bat-off has flopped after both failed to impress selectors in Australia A’s tour match against the Indians.

Pucovski went for just one, cutting Umesh Yadav to point before Burns was caught behind two overs later by the same bowler for four. Travis Head also fell cheaply before lunch on day two when he chopped on off Mohammed Siraj for 18, leaving Australia A 3-60 in reply to the Indians’ 9(dec)-247.

Marcus Harris, who has been in superb early-season form, has been the only batsman to score freely, going to the break unbeaten on 33.

Burns and Pucovski could well open together in the first Test against India at the Adelaide Oval if David Warner does not recover from a groin injury in time. If Warner is fit, selectors will be forced to choose just one of the pair.