23 Dec 2017

Starc likely to be ruled out of Boxing Day

6:15 am on 23 December 2017

Australia's injured spearhead Mitchell Starc is likely to be ruled out of the Boxing Day Ashes test, possibly as early as Saturday.

Australian fast bowler Mitchell Starc.

Australian fast bowler Mitchell Starc. Photo: Photosport

Starc is determined to prove medicos wrong but, barring a miraculous recovery, will struggle to show his bruised heel is ready for the rigours of five days of test cricket.

The left-armer hobbled through Melbourne airport on Friday, still on crutches but not yet ready to concede defeat.

"It won't be my choice," he acknowledged.

Management is yet to make a call, wanting to give Starc every chance to rehab his landing foot after the side had claimed an unassailable 3-0 lead in the series against England.

If the express paceman is unable to bowl on Saturday in the nets, when the squad have their first training session at the fourth test venue, then selectors might rule a line through his name then and there.

Starc's resilience has impressed senior figures but the speedster will find it hard to rebut several arguments that point to Jackson Bird taking his place in the XI.

The 27-year-old is likely to lack his trademark potency at the MCG, while the injury could potentially develop into something more serious.

The drop-in pitch is expected to be reasonably flat. Another factor is the urn has been reclaimed and there is an upcoming Test series in South Africa, where Starc will be one of the first picked in the touring party.

Parallels have been drawn with 2012 - Bird's test debut at the MCG after Starc had been rotated out of the attack because of workload concerns.

Bird is set to benefit from Starc's omission again but, on this occasion, there is a genuine injury that requires rest.

Glenn McGrath, test cricket's most-prolific bowler, recorded the worst figures of his international career when he tried to bowl through the pain of a bruised heel during an Ashes test in 2006.

Ryan Harris, renowned for his pain threshold throughout a lion-hearted test career that had included Australia's Ashes success four years ago, also knows how much of an impediment a bruised heel can be.

"I have had it. They can be quite painful," Harris told SEN radio.

"You can't hide it. You can't change anything - the way you land or try and get around it."

Bird, who was on drinks duty at the Gabba, Adelaide Oval and WACA, has impressed coaches, selectors and teammates this month in the nets.

"Swinging it, seaming and hitting his line and length," Peter Handscomb said.

"He's just relentless on his mark. He'll hit the top of off (stump) and he's still got a very good bouncer in him as well."