Heather Graham (L) and Erin Burns in action. © Getty Images

Every move in the cricketing world these days elicits talk of the focus being on the T20 World Cup 2020. No wonder when Erin Burns and Heather Graham, the two newbies, were included in the Australia’s touring party to the Caribbean, speculations and questions regarding the same followed. “They’re selected because they deserve to be selected, with the balance we’re looking for,” said Matthew Mott, the Australian coach after the announcement of the squad. “Yes, we have an eye on the T20 World Cup, but it’s more about the style we are looking to play in the middle, and have a number of contributors across the board that can adapt to different situations.” “Certainly learnt a lot from the last 50-over World Cup, where we were a few bowlers short. We’d like to think that we’ve got at least seven bowling options, where if we have a bad day, someone can really take up the slack and provide something different. In T20s, we want the nucleus of our top five to be solid players, but from six onwards we want some genuine all-rounders as well.” Both Burns and Graham’s selection were on the back of strong showings in domestic cricket over a period of time. While Graham topped the run-charts in the Women’s National Cricket League (WNCL) in 2018-19, scoring 294 runs at an average of 49, she also picked up 11 wickets. After that, in the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL), she finished as the joint-highest wicket-taker with 22 wickets. Burns, on the other hand, shone with the bat in the WBBL last year. Coming in to bat in the lower-middle order, she scored 250 runs at a strike rate of 129.53 in 16 matches. “(It’s a) good move by the selectors to reward performances. It is a real light-bulb moment for everyone in competition,” said Mott. “It’s a perfect reward for Erin Burns. She has done a great job for the Sydney Sixers in the last two years, whether it is with the bat, ball or in the field. People will never forget her fielding effort in the last year’s (WBBL) semi-finals.”

Burns’ selection has also stressed that age alone isn’t the criterion for selection in the Australian team. “What WBBL has brought to the Australian landscape is the talent pool, especially with a huge talent factory like New South Wales. It doesn’t matter if you are 16 or 31, if you’re performing, the selectors will take notice,” stated Mott. Meg Lanning, who is set to lead the team against West Indies, added weight to the Burns’ story. “She’s played for three different states and has been a very good contributor in the WBBL for the (Sydney) Sixers. It’s a great story of persistence. She really adds value to our team. She has got some good versatility with bat and ball and is a gun fielder as well.” Unlike Burns, Graham is young. She was named the Domestic Player of the Year last season and Mott was the one who presented her with the award. “She’s the type of player we like. She’s a bit similar to Delissa Kimmince in terms of what she brings to the table with the ball. She can change up her pace and has got a good smart head over her shoulders and is cool under pressure,” he said. Mott added that he was pleased to welcome Graham to the national team setup as he has got wonderful reviews about her work ethic. Lanning called Graham “type of cricketer we want in our team.” She added, “I’ve played with her at the Scorchers. She’s very reliable with the ball and very skilful. she’s been consistent in domestic cricket for a number of years.” “In the last couple of years, she has matured and understands her game pretty well now. She’s always had the talent and is working hard on her game, both skill-wise and fitness-wise. She’s reaping those rewards now.” Mott was of the opinion that Elyse Villani was a tad unlucky to miss out. However, he clarified about what he is looking to get from the players who are currently in the setup. “For numbers five, six and seven we are looking for all-rounders, people to play a role and maybe off 10 balls score 14-15 runs. Villani’s squeezed out there. Maybe the first round of WNCL is a great time to go back and, sort of, reinvent herself at the top of the order and push her case there.” The national coach was clear about Sophie Molineux’s shoulder niggle as well. “We want her back to 100%. With the amount of cricket that is coming up with the WBBL, World Cup in the new year and the tri-series, there’s plenty of cricket left for her. She did well to get up for the Ashes, but now we need to be a bit more conservative to make sure she is back to 100%,” he said. Looking ahead to the tour of the West Indies, both Mott and Lanning reminisced about their memories of Sir Viv Richards Stadium in Antigua. That is where Australia lifted the T20 World Cup in 2018. “West Indies is one of the great places to tour and we’ve had some unbelievable memories at Sir Viv Richards Stadium. We’re playing there again. The whole Caribbean lifestyle is great. We did that pretty well on our last tour where when we trained, we trained really hard, and when we had our off time, we relaxed and got into the island lifestyle. Something we’ll look to do again,” reckoned Mott. Lanning couldn’t agree more. “There are many beaches there (to have) some time under the sun. It is going to be a tough challenge in West Indies. Good chance to go away as a group.” Even though, admittedly, singing isn’t Lanning’s strongest suit, she’d do more than well to put her feet up when she’s not scoring runs or making field adjustments.

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