Australia face tough calls
Australia are set to decide today which of their injured players they will leave at home for the World Cup.
The world champions face an injury crisis heading into the defence of their title with captain Ricky Ponting (finger), Mike Hussey (hamstring) and Nathan Hauritz (shoulder) all battling to be fit for the opening group game against Zimbabwe on February 21.
Hussey and Hauritz loom as the players most likely to miss out after they underwent tests in Melbourne today with Cricket Australia's medical staff.
Australia coach Tim Nielsen will meet with CA officials in the next 24 hours to discuss the results of those tests, but has admitted he is reluctant to risk taking injured players to the sub-continent when the team flies out on Wednesday.
"I can't afford to have two, three or four guys that we're uncertain about," Nielsen said.
"It means we've only got 11 fit ready to go at the start. That's the quandary we face.
"We've got to make sure we've got good coverage. There's always an opportunity someone might dislocate a finger in a warm-up or get crook on the day of the game.
"We need to have a pretty good back-up of players ready to go for every game to cover any contingency. That's the decision we need to make."
While Ponting is expected to be selected to lead the team, after missing the 6-1 Commonwealth Bank Series win over England due to a broken finger, spinner Hauritz is a major doubt having dislocated his shoulder in the second match in Hobart on January 21.
The selectors must also make a call on whether to risk Hussey, who conceded yesterday that he would be unavailable until at least Australia's third game against Sri Lanka on March 5 after he underwent hamstring surgery last month.
Australia could opt to take the star left-hander to the six-week tournament, and unleash him in the latter stages, but Nielsen said he was reluctant to gamble on the fitness of players - even for the first warm-up game against India in Bangalore on Sunday.
"I don't think we can expect to take two or three guys hoping they can be fit by a certain a time," Nielsen explained.
"That's the hard decision we have to make. When are they going to be ready and what is the impact on the team if they're not ready in the first game or the second game?
"They're special players but this is a different tournament also. It's important we have enough coverage when we get over to India for our first practice game that we're not reliant on 11 players to be right to go.
"Ultimately that puts a lot of pressure on the rest of the team. Ultimately it creates a little doubt among the group and amongst ourselves about where players are at and how they're going, when are they going to come back, are we guessing, are we not guessing?
"All of those little distractions aren't things you like to be taking into such a big tournament like a World Cup."
Nielsen added: "They're all coming along pretty well, which is positive, but unfortunately the nature of the beast is we go on Wednesday so time is against us to give them as much time as we would like to have them 100% fit. We've just got to sit down and make those calls."
Those decisions are, however, complicated by injuries to Shaun Marsh and Xavier Doherty, who were the most likely replacements for Hussey and Hauritz respectively.
Marsh also suffered a hamstring injury, albeit a slight tear, after being called in to replace Hussey against England, while Doherty was forced to leave the squad with a stiff back.
Nielsen admitted that had added to his selections headaches, saying: "If we are going to replace players then we need to know if the replacements are ready to go straight away or are we better off taking the named player who might be ready at the same time. All those different things that come into the equation."