WHEN Ben Hilfenhaus was injured midway through last month's Hobart Test against Sri Lanka, coach Mickey Arthur said whoever replaced him would be ''well down the list'' of pacemen the selectors unofficially ranked at the start of the summer.
Given the assured performances of that replacement seamer, Jackson Bird, in Melbourne and Sydney, it was little surprise to hear Arthur admit that the list now requires some tweaking.
''Jackson's stocks have risen considerably,'' he said of Bird, who after two matches already boasts a man-of-the-match award.
The 26-year-old was elevated to the Test team on the strength of his almost unprecedented level of success early in his first-class career. In his first 14 matches, the seamer claimed 80 wickets at an average of 17.54, with a strike-rate of a wicket every 36.11 deliveries.
Bird's Test record is, after two matches, superior to his domestic record for Tasmania, with 11 wickets at an average of 16.18 and a strike-rate of 34.36.
Australia was barely able to call upon emerging pacemen James Pattinson, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood for the summer's six Tests due to injuries. Arthur said he was nevertheless bullish about Australia's expanding pace battery and Bird's place within it.
''I think Jackson stood up really well, and it's really exciting,'' he said.
''I remember having this chat somewhere in the South African series, [that] we've got such a wealth of bowling talent in Australia and Jackson's just a reminder of that. He comes in with a man-of-the-match performance in Sydney, bowled really well in Melbourne, so again it's given us a pool of fast bowlers that we can call on that we know have the ability to play at this level and perform.''
Bird's current status as a Test-only player should allow him to return to shield matches once the BBL concludes, rather than feature in the ODIs against Sri Lanka and the West Indies.
He also shapes as a likely squad member for next month's Test tour to India, along with Mitchell Johnson, who has been Australia's leading wicket-taker on its past two visits there.
The last two workhorse pacemen employed by Australia for Tests in India did not thrive. In 2008-09, Stuart Clark's two Tests produced two wickets at an average of 80.50. In 2010-11, Ben Hilfenhaus took a creditable 11 wickets in two Tests but at an average of 43.5.
Peter Siddle, the mainstay of the pace attack, has only played one Test in India, his debut in 2008-09, when he claimed three wickets at an average of 44.
Arthur said he was optimistic Bird would not struggle in subcontinental conditions if given the opportunity by selectors.
''What he does do is he hits a really good length. He's miserly with his runs and he's got enough pace, so I think if chosen he'll go fairly well,'' Arthur said.
Part of the squad selected for the tour of India will leave Australia before the home limited-overs series against the West Indies concludes on February 13.