Mitchell Starc is extremely likely to miss the winter Ashes series in Australia after suffering a stress fracture to his back.
The injury looks set to be yet another advantage for England, who already head Down Under as firm favourites, regardless of Starc’s setback.
At 23 years of age, Starc will be afforded a lengthy layoff to recover from his injury, which can ruin a bowler’s career if not treated correctly.
The medical officer of Cricket Australia, Justin Paoloni, elaborated on the details of Starc’s back problem in quotes reported by the Australian Associated Press, via the Guardian:
Mitch Starc had scans following his arrival back to Australia and they have shown an early stage low back stress fracture.
His management plan will be determined in the coming days but he is expected to be unavailable for a prolonged period.
The first Test of the return Ashes series begins on November 21, giving Starc little over two months to make his recovery.
His absence, which is all but official, would rob Australia not only of a front-line bowler, but also of a player who would bring several alternative ingredients to the Aussie attack.
Fiery by nature, Starc’s aggression would have been integral to Australia's chances, who will undoubtedly attempt to intimidate England after Darren Lehmann called on the public to send Stuart Broad home crying.
As a left-arm paceman, Starc also offered captain Michael Clarke different angles with which to tempt the English batsmen, since he is able to slide the ball across right-handers.
Despite the 3-0 series loss on English soil, Starc came away as Australia’s third-highest wicket taker, with 11 victims at an average of 32.45.
He also adds to a growing list of casualties in the bowling department, where James Pattinson and Pat Cummins are both sidelined with similar afflictions. Jackson Bird, another to experience back complaints, has been cleared.
Australia will want to be firing on all cylinders to put England on the back foot from the opening session later this year, but Starc’s setback is the latest to undermine any bid to carry momentum and confidence into the Winter series.
However, CA’s general manager of team performance, Pat Howard, insists the rising number of back injuries in young bowlers is due to the experience gained by surfacing in the Test setup so early in their careers. Per Cricinfo:
Historically, we've rarely seen three such promising young fast bowlers come through at the same time and all of a similar age so when they get injured of course that will be disappointing.
We're doing our best to minimise longer term injuries, but we are also realistic that such injuries are possible.
Australia’s most pressing concern for now is the current one-day series, which they lead 1-0 after Sunday’s crushing 88-run victory over England.