Picking the final XI will be a tough task although the returning Tayla Vlaeminck won’t play every game
Australia coach Matthew Mott knows that he will have to manage the disappointment of players who fail to make the starting XI against New Zealand later this month, with the return of Tayla Vlaeminck and Ellyse Perry further strengthening their squad.
Fast bowler Vlaeminck will be carefully handled on her comeback to international cricket and will not be part of every match of the tour [of three T20Is and three ODIs]. She has not played for Australia since the tri-series before last year’s T20 World Cup, which she then missed with a stress fracture of her foot. She also sat out this season’s WBBL.
Vlaeminck returned to action in the WNCL last month and picked up six wickets in four games for Victoria, including 4 for 16 against ACT.
Perry is also available again, for the first since the World Cup after having missed the home series against New Zealand at the start of the season as she continued he recovery from a severe hamstring injury.
It means some tough selection decisions loom when narrowing down the final XI for the T20I series, which starts on March 28 once Australia complete their two weeks of managed isolation.
“There’s going to be one or two very disappointed players that deserve to be in that team, but that’s the byproduct of having success and having players who have been out of the team coming back in,” Mott said. “We aren’t exactly settled on that [final] XI. There are people at difference stages. In Tayla’s case, we won’t be looking to play her in every game over here.
“She’s aware of that so we’ll have to manage her through her return to play.”
Having watched a lot of cricket from the sidelines, Vlaeminck is confident about her form and fitness heading into the series. “I gradually got to expose my foot and my body to the feeling of hitting the crease, so I wasn’t going from zero to a hundred really quick,” she told RSN Radio. “Took me probably a couple of games to find my rhythm again but feel like I’m back to that now.
“It was a long time between games but makes it so much more enjoyable when you get back out there.”
From the last T20I Australia played, against New Zealand in late September, there is one certain absentee, with Delissa Kimmince having taken a break from the game. Allrounder Annabel Sutherland, who was part of the ODI side, was also ruled out of this tour because of a stress fracture.
“Ellyse has come off some really good cricket and is a world-class player so she’ll have to get in there somewhere then it’s about managing a couple of really unlucky players who will miss out,” Mott said.
“It was a smart [decision] from her, she nipped it in the bud,” Mott said of Mooney skipping the game. “Kate Beerworth, our physio, is assessing everyone today and we’ll know a bit more tomorrow but Beth seems to be moving around well.”
Australia will train for the first time on Thursday in Christchurch and over the course of the next ten days, they will go through various match-based scenarios as they only leave managed isolation the day before the opening T20I in Hamilton.
“That’s probably the most critical sessions we’ll have,” Mott said. “Our players have been playing a bit of cricket so we aren’t worried about it, but just that spatial awareness for batters and bowlers to get out there in the middle, it’s very different to the nets, they are craving that contest-type stuff. We’ll put players in positions they’ll likely be in during games.”
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo