Head injury creates top-order chaos for World Cup

    Marnus Labuschagne looks set for an 11th hour call-up to Australia’s World Cup squad if star opener Travis Head fails to recover from a fractured hand.

    Head is now racing the clock to be fit for the ODI showpiece starting next month in India after copping a nasty blow to his hand facing South African speedster Gerald Coetzee in the most recent one-day warm-up match in Pretoria.

    Labuschagne has made an irresistible case to be first-man up if further scans confirm Head is facing an extended period on the sidelines, but it would cause a significant change to Australia’s top order plans.

    Mitchell Marsh would likely replace Head at the top of the order as David Warner’s partner, with Smith back to his favourite position of No. 3 and potentially Labuschagne slotted in at No.4.

    The other possibility might be to try and separate the similar Smith and Labuschagne in the order by opening with Smith and keeping Marsh at No.3.

    Before any of those decisions are made, Australia is desperately sweating on a swift recovery for Head, who is a key man – not only for his blazing batting but for his part-time off-spin in Indian conditions.

    “At this stage, it’s a confirmed fracture and how long that time frame is, we’re yet to determine that so fingers crossed clearly with the World Cup fast approaching,” McDonald said.

    “I’m not a medical person, but I think it’s a little bit higher up than the actual (index) finger itself. But I don’t know the actual terminology. It’s in a joint somewhere, so I won’t go into the medical specifics. But, yeah, a confirmed fracture and to be assessed again tomorrow with another scan.”

    Losing Head for the World Cup would be a massive blow to Australia’s hopes of winning the tournament.

    Head was a revelation opening the batting in the Tests in India earlier this year and has dominated in his time as Warner’s opening partner.

    Losing Head would hurt Australia’s game plan of blowing opposition team’s out of the contest with aggressive batting.

    Australia did appear to have reservations about playing Smith and Labuschagne in the same XI, although any hesitancy will be mitigated by the fact Labuschagne is one of the form batsmen in South African and has peeled off two match-winning scores including a hundred.

    Smith himself said prior to the South African series that he felt Labuschagne’s batsmanship could prove important in a World Cup in India where the wickets could tire and slow down as the tournament goes on, making scoring more difficult.

    Losing Head’s off-spin also puts extra pressure on an Australian side which is already sweating on Glenn Maxwell recovering from an ankle problem.

    Maxwell’s spin overs become even more crucial if Head is out.

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