Starc is the leading wicket-taker in the Ashes so far with 19 scalps. © Getty
Mitchell Starc, the Australian spearhead, has been ruled out of the Boxing Day Test and will be replaced by backup quick Jackson Bird.
The explosive left-armer suffered a bruised heel in the third Test in Perth and will once again miss the coveted Boxing Day Test. Since making his debut in 2011, Starc has only played one of his 39 Tests at the MCG – Australia’s most revered sports stadium.
Starc, the leading wicket-taker in the Ashes with 19 scalps, has been put in cotton wool ahead of an arduous tour of South Africa starting in March. Australia have already reclaimed the Ashes after taking an unassailable 3-0 lead in Perth to ensure the final two Tests in Melbourne and Sydney are dead rubbers.
Bird, Australia’s backup quick and constant 12th man, will replace Starc and play his first Test in 12 months. The Tasmanian has thrived in limited opportunities with 34 wickets from 8 Tests at an average of 27. Bird comes into the Test in red-hot form being this year’s leading Sheffield Shield wicket-taker with 25 wickets at 16.56. He will form a deadly pace attack with star quicks Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins.
Hazlewood lamented Starc’s absence but said Bird was an ideal replacement. “He’s (Starc) very disappointed,” Hazlewood told reporters in Melbourne on Sunday (December 24). “You do feel that extra responsibility I guess but I’ve played quite a few Tests without Mitch now. It feels a bit normal.
“Birdy’s played a lot of cricket, Patty (Cummins) has played a fair bit now as well,” he added.
In a bid to play in the fourth Test, which is set to attract 90,000 spectators on Boxing Day, Starc refused to drink alcohol after Australia’s crushing win at the WACA last week. Last year’s Test against Pakistan is Starc’s only Boxing Day Test appearance having controversially been rotated out of the attack in 2012 due to workload concerns – which still lingers as a sore spot for the 27-year-old.
“We’re joking around – it’s still a bit off limits those jokes around Boxing Day,” Hazlewood quipped.
Meanwhile, Tim Paine, Australia’s wicketkeeper, will train on Sunday with his teammates and play in the Boxing Day Test after delaying his arrival into Melbourne due to personal reasons.
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