Australia today turned to James Pattinson and Nathan Coulter-Nile to replenish their diminishing fast bowling ranks for next week’s opening Test against the West Indies.
Selectors named the pace duo in a 12-man squad for the December 10-14 Hobart Test following a stress fracture foot injury to Mitchell Starc on top of the recent retirement of Mitchell Johnson.
The panel is also mulling the pressing need to give Adelaide Test man of the match Josh Hazlewood some time off to refresh as Australia face a three-Test series against the West Indies and two return Tests in New Zealand in February.
Pattinson, 25, played the last of his 13 Tests against South Africa in March 2014 with his career stalled by chronic back and hamstring issues.
Coulter-Nile, 28, has been included despite not playing any domestic Sheffield Shield matches so far this summer because of a shoulder injury.
He should have bowled for Western Australia last weekend but was given a one-match ban for showing dissent at an umpire’s decision in the domestic second XI league, meaning he has not played first-class cricket since the Sheffield Shield final in March.
“We’ve had our eye on Nathan for a long time. We’ve been very pleased with the way he’s played when he has played,” selector Rod Marsh told reporters.
“But he’s been a fast bowler who hasn’t been injury-free and I guess we are at the situation now because of the two Mitchells, one injured and one retiring, that we do need a bit of pace up front, so he’s in the 12.
“Once Mitchell Starc went down everyone’s mind turned straight to Nathan Coulter-Nile.”
Senior quick Peter Siddle, who has become even more important to Australia’s plans with the pressures on the pace brigade, experienced back problems during last weekend’s day-night third Test against New Zealand in Adelaide.
As a precaution selectors have placed Scott Boland on standby in case of further injury problems heading into the Test.
“Hopefully, all the bowlers from the Adelaide Test recover well over the next few days but we are mindful our fast bowlers have had a heavy workload over this series,” Marsh said.
Marsh spoke of the conundrum facing selectors over Hazlewood’s recent workload. He bowled a total of 119 overs in the recent New Zealand series.
“It will be very difficult for Josh Hazlewood to get through six Tests in a summer and then go to New Zealand and play two more and we also have a one-day series against India,” Marsh said.
“So we’ll see how he’s tracking, if he’s strong and he’s fit. It helps if you don’t have to play five-day Test matches too. The last couple of days of a Test match can be quite difficult for a fast bowler.”
Given Australia’s current fast bowling predicament, Marsh was asked if he had considered talking Johnson out of retirement.
“I thought about it,” he said jokingly. “No, you have to respect a bloke when he retires. “There’s a reason why he wanted to retire and he didn’t want to play any more, it’s simple as that. You don’t go there.”
Australia Squad: David Warner, Joe Burns, Steve Smith (captain), Adam Voges, Shaun Marsh, Mitch Marsh, Peter Nevill, Peter Siddle, Josh Hazlewood, James Pattinson, Nathan Lyon, Nathan Coulter-Nile.