Australia’s Hazlewood eases fears over long-term fitness

SYDNEY (Reuters): Australia paceman Josh Hazlewood has moved to ease fears about his long-term fitness after being ruled out of this week’s World Test Championship (WTC) final against India at The Oval.

The 32-year-old is recovering from a side issue that cut short his participation in the Indian Premier League (IPL), the latest in a string of injuries that have limited him to four tests since January 2021.

“I am not playing test matches, but I am still bowling for close to 50 weeks of the year,” Hazlewood told Australian Associated Press (AAP).

“That’s the frustrating bit. Just bowling in the past week or so here in England, it feels a bit easier.

“You have a nice Dukes ball, there is a bit doing, you don’t have to break your back every ball like you do in India or Australia or somewhere else.

“Hopefully that plays into my hands a little bit.”

Michael Neser was called into the Australia squad for the WTC final on Sunday after Hazlewood failed a fitness test but Scott Boland is widely tipped to be the third paceman in the side when the match starts on Wednesday.

Head selector George Bailey said Hazlewood was “very, very close” to getting the nod for The Oval, suggesting the right-arm quick might well be selected for the opening Ashes test at Edgbaston starting on June 16.

Hazlewood admitted he was taking a cautious approach to the side injury ahead of what will be a six-test tour of England and did not rule out still being around for Australia’s next Ashes tour of England in 2027.

“You can get caught out a bit if you think too far ahead and where you will be in four years,” said Hazlewood, who has taken 222 wickets in 59 tests since his debut in 2014.

“I could still be playing then, I might not be. Being a fast bowler, not many walk off the field by their own choice. A lot of the time it comes through injury or your body has had enough.

“Sometimes it hits you at 33, 34, 35 or 36. It could be any time.”