Coach Matthew Mott says they won’t rotate players for the sake of it on the tour of New Zealand
Australia are determined not to be “caught out” at next year’s 50-over Women’s World Cup with memories of falling short in 2017 still often referred to by members of the current squad who took part.
Four years ago, Australia were bundled out by Harmanpreet Kaur spectacular 171 at Derby. That became a watershed moment for the side who realised they had started to stagnate and it has been a key motivator behind their record since which has included two T20 World Cup titles and a record-equaling run of 22 ODI wins.
They will use the upcoming tour of New Zealand, which includes three T20Is and three ODIs, as a chance to gather intel ahead of the tournament and also to keep challenging themselves to lift their own performance levels.
“What we are trying achieve in T20 is also what we are trying achieve in one-day cricket which is try to take the game on, push the boundaries a little bit and see how far we can take it,” head coach Matthew Mott told ESPNcricinfo.
“We learnt our lessons from the last World Cup, not evolving and probably thinking we could keep rolling along doing the same thing. We don’t want to be caught out this time, this is a perfect opportunity against good opposition – I know they’ve struggled against England but the Kiwis always give us a good run, in their home conditions we won’t be taking them lightly.
“We are going over with a reasonably open mind, there’s a good mix of players, experience and some youth, so for us it’s about having a real dress rehearsal seeing what it will be like at that World Cup. We’ll play on a few of the same venues and getting some intel against New Zealand on those grounds will be great for us.”
Australia are taking a 17-player squad across the Tasman – offspinner Molly Strano a late replacement for injured allrounder Annabel Sutherland – which includes the uncapped pace bowlers Darcie Brown and Hannah Darlington, but there won’t be caps handed out for sake of giving everyone a game.
“Think our batting will stay the same, we’ve had a good run in our ODI cricket and style of cricket we’ve been playing we’ve been happy with,” Mott said. “In our one-day bowling attack there’s a lot of options. What we want to maintain is a bit of unpredictably so teams don’t know what to expect, so certainly different bowling combinations will happen. They’ll be subtle changes in there but our games are pretty similar and our best players are our best in both formats.
“Players don’t generally want to give up their spot, either, so you have to manage that…but if there’s a close call to be made and there’s a player who has an opportunity and a senior player could do with a game off to refresh then those are the sorts of conversations we’ll have with the selectors.
“Even just being the squad for a couple of people who haven’t been there is an enormous opportunity to understand our culture, how the team operates so there’s plenty of benefits even if they don’t get a game.”
Mott has also been encouraged by the volume of runs being scored in the WNCL, highlighted by Elyse Villani‘s prolific form which has brought 538 runs 134.50 including three hundreds. Of the squad heading to New Zealand, Rachael Haynes, Beth Mooney and Nicola Carey have scored centuries, Meg Lanning has a best of 96, Alyssa Healy 92 and Mott believes Ellyse Perry’s batting is heading back to its peak.
“What’s been really exciting recently has been the number of players getting big hundreds,” he said. “That’s a trend that we like to see as a selection group – someone gets a hundred and the next day one of their team-mates is trying to get one as well. I’ve been inspired by players putting their hands up with those big hundreds.”
The strength of Australia’s top order makes it a tough route back for Villani, who last played in March 2019, with the team generally only including three specialist batters in Haynes, Mooney and Lanning alongside wicketkeeper Healy and a plethora of allrounders.
“It’s probably one of the best things you can see as a coach,” Mott said of Villani’s form. “I’ve been in regular contact with Elyse over the last couple of months to say keeping going, keep doing what you are doing, and she’s definitely playing with a lot of freedom at the moment. She looks self-assured, relaxed and if she can keep doing that then there’s obviously a future for her in Australian colours again.
“She was in the team for a long time and by her own admission probably didn’t smash it out the park so all these runs and the way she’s doing about it is really exciting and shows how much depth we’ve got when we can leave a player of her class and caliber out.”
“It’s a bloody hard team to break into at the moment and all those other players in front of her have been scoring big runs as well. For Elyse she is competing in that team as a specialist batter. She’s doing all the right things it’s just unfortunate when you have good players in front of you.”
The squad will depart for New Zealand on Saturday and then undergo two weeks managed isolation in Christchurch during which they will be able to train.
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo