South Africa suffered a big blow when their genuinely quick, young seamer Anrich Nortje was declared unable to participate in the World Cup due to a thumb injury. Less than 24 hours later, Australia also lost a member of their fast bowling group with Jhye Richardson getting ruled out due to a shoulder injury.
Value of the two bowlers
Richardson was emerging as a potential third seamer alongside Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc in the final starting XI for Australia. However, the 22-year old was already under the cloud of injury when he was chosen to be part of the 15-men squad announced by Aussie selectors. He had suffered this injury during the ODI series in UAE against Pakistan. But the selectors had hoped that he would recover in time for the mega event in England. It didn't happen.
Nortje, on the other hand, emerged as an exciting prospect for Proteas during the Super League T20 tournament in South Africa. He generated high speeds going up to 150+ mark in his spells. The selectors brought him into the team for the home series against Sri Lanka where he showed glimpses of his ability without bringing the house down. But it was enough for him to get into the World Cup squad.
However, the thumb fracture suffered by the 25-year old during a net session of the South African team proved too much to overcome in time for the World Cup. With him out, South Africa have decided to bring in Chris Morris as the replacement. Morris is an experienced bowler and has been in and out of the team during the last few years.
For Australia, the injury to Richardson can prove to be a blessing in disguise. Josh Hazlewood, whose absence in the World Cup squad was criticised, might well be brought in as a replacement. His experience and expertise would be a great asset for the defending champions. If, however, the selectors are looking for someone else, then they have the option of choosing Billy Stanlake – a tall bowler who did well in England during the course of a 5-match ODI series last year.
So, in an ironic way, the two injuries could well end up being good for the respective teams. Morris, who has honed his skills playing in the IPL over the years as well, may be a more dependable option than young Nortje. He can also be a handy lower-order batsman and better equipped to exploit any helpful conditions that may be present on some overcast days during the World Cup. Similarly, Hazlewood might prove a great asset for Australia if he gets back into the team. An attack consisting of Starc, Cummins and Hazlewood will be quite an alluring prospect for Aussie fans.