Physiotherapist Alex Kontouris, coach Mickey Arthur, Michael Clarke and chairman of selectors John Inverarity watch the progress of a nets session. Photo: Getty Images
AUSTRALIAN pacemen seething at being withdrawn from key matches because of a possibility of injury must look beyond their captain if they want a sympathetic ear.
Michael Clarke has given his emphatic endorsement to the contentious policy of preventive injury management being led by Cricket Australia fitness staff, which has ruled out left-armer Mitch Starc from the Boxing Day Test.
"I'm not really sure if I like that word 'rotation'. It's more player management than rotation. It's not 'You come in today, you're out tomorrow', it's not like that at all. It's about looking after the individual player, which in essence looks after the team," Clarke said on Tuesday.
The captain said Australia was uniquely placed among international teams because so many of its favoured pacemen – Starc (22), James Pattinson (22), Pat Cummins (19) and Josh Hazlewood (21) – were physically immature.
"We've got the youngest fast-bowling unit in the world. We're in a completely different situation to a lot of other teams and we've had a lot of injuries. We need to manage players as well as we possibly can," Clarke said.
"It's not something we as Australians are used to. I think it's a reality of our sport now.
"I think we need to continue to manage our players as well as we can to make sure we can consistently put our best team on the park.
"It's the same discussion I had about Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus missing Perth. They weren't rested, they weren't fit enough – at 100 per cent – to give us every opportunity to win that Test match."
Starc expressed his annoyance about being left out on social media, saying he was "absolutely shattered", while both Mitchell Johnson and Siddle have made it clear in recent days that they are against being "rested" for Test matches.
Clarke suggested the frustration felt by players withdrawn from matches due to concerns about their workload would be easily offset if the policy does, as intended, reduce the likelihood of longer-term stints out of the team due to injury.
"Mitchell Starc has done very well over the past couple of Test matches and has had a really big 12 months but we're making decisions on Mitchell's career, we're making decisions on Mitchell playing a big part in the Australian team over the next 12 months," the captain said.
"We tour India, we have one-day cricket, we have Twenty20 cricket, we have Ashes home and away, Champions Trophy.
"It's not a decision made on just this one Test match.
"As disappointed as Mitchell is, in two months, six months, 12 months he might be thanking the high-performance team for saving his career.
"By him not playing this Test match might mean he can play in Sydney, can play the one-dayers, can tour India and play the Test matches there."
Clarke also reckoned it was an endorsement of the quality of the Sheffield Shield competition that Australia could "afford to rest a player like Mitchell [Starc] and bring Jackson Bird or Mitchell Johnson in who can cut it at the top, can perform at the top level".
"And we'll see that in this Test match," he said of the two seamers included to face Sri Lanka.