MELBOURNE : The recurring elbow injury that has long plagued Steve Smith is gradually on the mend but selectors face a tricky balancing act managing the master batsman through the Twenty20 World Cup and Ashes series.
Smith was named in Australia's World Cup squad released on Thursday, after missing the recent tours of West Indies and Bangladesh to continue his recovery.
The elbow has been a problem for years and he was in considerable pain batting for the Delhi Capitals during the Indian Premier League before it was suspended earlier this year.
Selectors chair George Bailey said on Thursday he was "really confident" Smith would play a big part in the World Cup and Ashes but also revealed the batsman was a long way from being ready for test-level workloads.
"He’s building up nicely. The latest update I had from him is he’s facing up over 100 balls in a session pretty comfortably," Bailey told reporters in a video call.
"That’s about a quarter of what he’d like to be facing for a test match so he’s got a little bit of building up to go there."
Smith, 32, has played through pain more often in recent years and might be expected to do the same if the risk-reward trade-off was favourable for Australia's hopes of winning their first T20 World Cup.
"There would obviously be a number where the risk would outweigh the benefit," added Bailey.
"We’ve got to place a little bit of trust in Steve as someone who knows his body and knows exactly what he needs to be able to perform at a level that’s required."
Australia are scheduled to play Afghanistan in the first test of the home summer on Nov. 27, though the match is in doubt after the Taliban's seizure of power in the South Asian nation.
With Australia enforcing a mandatory 14-day COVID-19 quarantine for international arrivals, Bailey said selectors might have to rest players from the test if the T20 team advanced deep into the World Cup, which finishes with the Nov. 14 final.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)