Mitchell Starc has revealed he is a 'good chance' to play in the second Test against India, opening the door for the Aussies to pull an almost unthinkable selection move. Starc has been out of action since the Boxing day Test in December after damaging ligaments in his finger.
However he revealed on Wednesday that he believes he's a good chance of playing in Delhi in what would be a huge boost for the tourists. "I'd like to be a little further down the road," the left-armer told reporters.
'RIDICULOUS': Darren Lehmann blasts Aussies over India move
"Still a good chance so it'll come down to how it reacts by the end of (Wednesday), how the medical staff see it, how the selectors and Pat (Cummins) and Ronnie (coach Andrew McDonald) feel about it as well. I'll do everything I can to be fully available for selection, then it's a discussion for the rest of the group involved."
Starc's ability to generate reverse swing is invaluable in Indian conditions, but his inclusion could open up the unfathomable proposition that captain Cummins could be dropped. With all-rounder Cameron Green also pushing to prove his fitness, the Aussies are considering playing three spinners and just one front-line pace bowler.
The pitch for the first Test favoured India's spinners, and the deck for the second is expected to also produce plenty of turn for the slower bowlers. If Australia picks Green in their XI, he could serve as the second pace option and allow the tourists to pick three spinners.
But that would present selectors with the difficult choice of picking between Starc and Cummins, with the proposition of leaving out the captain almost unthinkable. Leading cricket writer Ben Horne pointed out this week: "How do you drop Test cricket’s No.1 bowler and the man who has led Australia with such distinction since taking over from Tim Paine as captain? But to not play Starc would be a questionable move in itself given his track record suggests he is Australia’s best sub-continental quick, and the footmarks he creates as a left-armer is crucial to unlocking the full potential of off-spinner Nathan Lyon."
Starc told reporters on Wednesday that he planned to bowl "as normal" in the nets, but admitted he was struggling to get the finger back to full strength. "I don't think (batting will be an issue) so it's going to be uncomfortable but I don't think it's an issue," he said.
"I think I'll still field with a cap on (the finger), that's what I did in Melbourne (after he initially broke the finger)...I don't field myself in slip anyway."
Australia set to play three spinners in second Test?
The issue around Starc, Cummins and Green could be taken out of selectors' hands if Green doesn't prove his fitness in time for Friday's second Test. It was initially feared Green would be fit to bat before he could bowl again, but he was having more trouble with the latter during Wednesday's training session in Delhi.
The 23-year-old looked at near-top pace when he bowled on a centre wicket pitch. But he looked decidedly more uncertain when it came time to bat in the nets.
Left-arm spinner Matthew Kuhnemann has been flown in for the second Test after Mitchell Swepson went back to Australia for the birth of his first child. And the Queenslander could be picked in Australia's XI if the tourists decide to go with three spinners.
The Aussies got their first look at the Delhi pitch on Wednesday, and it looked just as dry and spin-friendly as the surface did in Nagpur. “It looks pretty dry. The groundsman said the nets look pretty similar and the two days we trained on were really low and took a lot of turn," Starc said.
“If that’s an indication, then that’s what it’s going to be like. Having a look the last couple of days it looks like it’s prepared pretty similar as well.”
Australia need to win or at least draw the second Test to stay alive in the series. A win for India in Delhi, where they haven't lost a Test since 1987, would see the hosts retain the Border Gavaskar Trophy.
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.