Australian captain Michael Clarke has described the choice between left-arm pacemen Mitchell Starc and Mitchell Johnson for the final spot in the team for the first Test against Sri Lanka in Hobart as a tough one, but is adamant that Starc has earned his position in the attack.
Johnson's return to the Test side after a 12-month absence proved to be short-lived despite impressing in the third Test loss to South Africa at the WACA by taking six wickets at an average of just over 27.
Starc, eight years younger than Johnson, who hadn't played a Test since April, claimed six wickets in the second innings of that Test match and that effort was enough to prove to the selectors that he was the right option for Hobart.
"Obviously it's a tough selection trying to cut 12 down to 11, especially with the way that Mitchell Johnson performed in Perth," Clarke said.
"Mitch (Johnson) would feel unlucky there's no doubt about that. Mitchell Starc has been in the queue for a while now and I thought he came in and did a really good job in Perth as well.
"We've gone for this attack for this Test match in these conditions against the opposition we are playing."
Clarke denied that there was a need to play Starc to build up his experience and confidence for the upcoming away Test series against India and England.
"For me, I'm not looking at the Ashes at all. The reason Mitchell Starc is there is that he's been next in line in the queue for a while. He's performed really well in the shorter form of the game for Australia," Clarke said.
"He got one Test in Perth, got a six-for and got 70 odd with the bat as well, so it's not a bad start.
"At the end of the day, you have to do what's best for the Australian team. You have to pick the best XI players to help you win a Test match."
Clarke backed Johnson to bounce back from the setback, and thinks that he will take it as a sign of the depth of the Australian bowling attack rather than an indication he is not up to scratch.
"It was a tough selection to leave Mitchell Johnson out, as it would have been whoever we left out, but I've been saying that it's a nice problem to have to have 12 blokes who want to play and have performed well," he said.
"Mitch will be fine and continue to work his backside off and wait for another opportunity and when that comes grab it with both hands."Sids and Hilf come back into the team having been two guys that have performed very well over the past 12 months for us and both are 100 per cent fit."
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