Australia opener Travis Head’s World Cup chances up in the air

Cricket - First ODI - South Africa vs Australia - Mangaung Oval, Bloemfontein, South Africa - September 7, 2023 Australia's Josh Hazlewood and Travis Head during the match REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Australia opener Travis Head’s participation at next month’s World Cup remains up in the air due to a fractured finger, which has ruled him out of the opening stages of the tournament.

Coach Andrew McDonald confirmed scans over the weekend showed he had broken a finger in the fourth One Day International against South Africa in Pretoria on Friday but said any decision on his participation at the World Cup in India would wait.

Head will go home on Monday for more medical tests while the rest of the squad travels from South Africa to India for a three-match series, which will be played between Sept. 22-27 in Mohali, Indore and Rajkot, and serve as a tune-up for the 50-over World Cup, which begins on Oct. 5.

“The timeframe is still a little bit loose at the moment,” McDonald told a press conference on Sunday after Australia lost a third successive ODI to South Africa and went down 3-2 in the series.

“But the good news is that he doesn’t require surgery as it sits at the moment. The follow up scan confirmed the fracture was in a joint.

“There will be an extended period of time out and we’re just going to weigh whether that time falls potentially with an option to carry him through the front half of the World Cup.

“But there is no doubt that he won’t be available for the front half. So that’s a decision we’ll need to make in terms of the final 15. But I can’t give you an exact timeframe.”

Head had to retire hurt in his country’s 164-run defeat to South Africa at Centurion on Friday after being hit on the hand by Gerald Coetzee.

The 29-year-old, who has been a spearhead at the top of the innings for Australia in one dayers, would be sorely missed if he is ruled out of the World Cup.

If he does not make it, there is a strong chance that Marnus Labuschagne will be included after he was left out of the preliminary squad .

He travelled to South Africa for the five match series as an injury replacement for Steve Smith and was top scorer with 283 runs in five innings, for an average of 70.74 and was twice named man of the match.

“I can’t talk on behalf of the selection panel but I think he’s made a significant shift. He’s come in and he’s taken that opportunity,” added McDonald.

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