Brisbane: The man Australian Test captain Steve Waugh calls "the best in the business" of getting injured players back on the field was unconcerned on Tuesday by a rash of injuries to four key bowlers in Australia's World Cup squad. Just a month before cricket's four-yearly showpiece gets under way in South Africa and Zimbabwe, the holders of the crown have four members of their much-vaunted attack under a cloud.
But 47-year-old physiotherapist Errol Alcott is hopeful he can have all of them firing before his charges line up for their first battle of the campaign, a clash with Pakistan in Johannesburg February 11. On the casualty list are three pacemen - Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Andy Bichel - as well as champion leg spinner Shane Warne. McGrath, 32, who has joint inflammation in the back, missed the fifth Test against England in Sydney and left the field after bowling only seven of his 10 overs in a tri-nations match against England on Saturday.
He was considered only a 50-50 chance of playing against Sri Lanka in another One- dayer here on Wednesday. Gillespie, 27, tore ligaments in his left elbow when he slipped in his delivery stride and landed awkwardly in the fifth Test . He is expected to be sidelined for another two weeks. Bichel, 32, injured his right (bowling) shoulder when he fell while diving in the field in Saturday's England match. He was having an ultrasound scan on Tuesday, which was expected to pinpoint the seriousness of an injury, which can take from one to three weeks to heal. Warne is making good progress after having surgery on his right (bowling) shoulder a month ago.
He has returned to inter-state ranks in one game, bowling eight overs, but will not be risked at international level until next week at the earliest. Alcott said he was "not really" concerned about the injuries so close to the World Cup. "It would be nice for things to be resolved and not have any of these problems, but I think at the moment there cannot be concerns," he said. "To my mind, McGrath's back is going to get right; Bichel's shoulder will get right; and Gillespie's elbow has to get right.
"That's the way I am handling it." Alcott shrugged off suggestions the spate of injuries could be related to Australia's exceptionally heavy schedule in recent months. Since early November the team has played in five Ashes Tests and five One-day Internationals against England and Sri Lanka. It faces another three tri-nations qualifying matches in the next six days, with the likelihood of at least two finals soon after that before having a brief rest before the World Cup.
Alcott said that, with the possible exception of McGrath, all sidelined bowlers were victims of mishaps on the field rather than workload-related problems. Alcott has established an outstanding reputation for getting players back on the field in almost 20 years as national senior physiotherapist. He managed to have Steve Waugh in shape for the fifth and final Test of the 2001 Ashes series in England just 19 days after the skipper suffered a double tear of his left calf. Waugh dedicated the century that followed to Alcott's efforts, calling him "the best in the business".