Labuschagne replaces Agar in Australia's World Cup squad

Marnus Labuschagne tonned up in 80 balls AFP/Getty Images

Australia will carry an injured Travis Head through the first part of the World Cup but have provided themselves with extra batting cover by including Marnus Labuschagne at the expense of Ashton Agar who has been ruled out with a calf injury.

Head, who suffered a fractured hand against South Africa, has been included in the final 15-player squad but will be unavailable for first half of the tournament. However, given he did not require surgery, there is confidence he will be fit to play later in the round-robin stage and he is viewed as so valuable to Australia's chances that they are willing to initially go in with 14 available players.

Since returning to the ODI side in March 2022, Head has made 791 runs at 60.84 and a strike rate of 119.84. While he recovers, Mitchell Marsh will likely continue to open with David Warner.

Agar's injury, which was confirmed by scans when he returned home from South Africa for the birth of his child, created a vacancy in the squad and the selectors have opted to change tactics and include Labuschagne rather than pick another frontline spinner.

Glenn Maxwell's four-wicket haul in Rajkot was timely in that regard, suggesting that he can be a second spinner alongside Adam Zampa, but it remains a gamble by the selectors given the uncertainty over how Maxwell will cope with the workload as he continues to feel the effects of the broken leg he suffered last year.

It also means there is no specialist spin cover for Zampa. Fellow legspinner Tanveer Sangha will remain with the squad until at least the end of the warm-up matches along with allrounder Matt Short.

"There has been one change to the original preliminary squad of 15 announced a month ago with Marnus replacing Ashton," chair of selectors George Bailey said. "This was a tough call but unfortunately, we couldn't carry both Travis and Ashton into the tournament with the injuries they have.

"We have made the decision to carry Travis through the early stages with the aim of him being available around the mid part of the tournament. He has been a really important player in this ODI team and we are hopeful his return can provide a positive impetus as it gets to the business end of the tournament."

It has been a rapid revival of Labuschagne's one-day fortunes after he was initially not meant to play a part in either the South Africa or India series this month. He was recalled as a replacement for Steven Smith as the latter recovered from a wrist injury, and in the opening match against South Africa in Bloemfontein was parachuted in as Cameron Green's concussion sub where he made a match-winning 80 not out.

He went on to make 421 runs at 60.14 in eight matches, including a century, also in Bloemfontein, and 72 off 58 balls in Rajkot on Wednesday.

Agar initially suffered a calf strain in pre-season and was ruled out of the T20I series in South Africa. He recovered to play the opening match of the one-day series but pulled up sore after that outing and did not feature again.

He would likely have played a part at various stages during the World Cup, teaming up with Zampa when conditions warranted two frontline spinners. There was also his batting ability, which he showed when helping guide Australia to victory in Bloemfontein.

Marcus Stoinis and Cameron Green are both short of runs heading into the World Cup while Alex Carey's 99 is his only significant score in the lead-in.

Australia have warm-up matches against Netherlands on September 30 and Pakistan on October 3 before opening their World Cup campaign against India, in Chennai, on October 8.