As the day of reckoning fast approaches, with both Australia and India readying themselves for a mouthwatering clash in the opening match of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2020 on Friday (February 21), there are a few decisions the hosts still have to make. Matthew Mott, Australia’s head coach, believes with “all 15 a chance of playing”, he has some tough choices to make over the course of the week.
Australia, who are coming off a successful T20I tri-series involving England and India, are set to play a warm-up match against South Africa at the Karen Rolton Oval in Adelaide on Tuesday (February 18). It will provide them with one final opportunity to take a look at who they could potentially fit into the XI for the opening game.
“That first XI, we’re still tinkering a little bit and we genuinely feel there’s still 15 players in contention for that first game,” Mott told reporters in Adelaide on Monday (February 17). “We had a trial on that (Showgrounds) wicket a couple of weeks ago, we’ve got a fair idea of what it will look like and how it will play, but our last XI we’ll probably decide once we get to Sydney. There’s still a few spots up for grabs.”
The relatively relaxed rules for warm-up matches means Australia will be able to provide an opportunity to as many as 13 members of the squad in the game on Tuesday.
One person who is certain to miss out is Erin Burns. The 31-year-old allrounder underwent arthroscopic surgery in her knee in January, and has not yet successfully recovered. She hasn’t played competitive cricket since December last year when she turned our for Australia A against India A. However, Mott believes she will be ready to go by Friday.
“She’s still got a niggle, we’ve still got some return-to-play protocols to get through, but she should be available for the first game in Sydney which we’ve been planning for the whole time,” Mott said.
“She’s shown a lot of resilience through her whole career, she’s battled through injuries and come back and played really well and I don’t think it’ll be very different.”
Another player who is doubtful for the clash is Sophie Molineux. After a splendid performance in Australia’s last league game in the T20I tri-series, the left-arm spinner had to miss the final due to a corked thigh.
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“She’s close, she’s going to train today but we’ll be pretty conservative with her – if she’s not 100 per cent, she won’t play tomorrow,” he said.
While Australia’s batting unit looks settled with Alyssa Healy, Beth Mooney, Meg Lanning, Rachael Haynes, Ellyse Perry and Asheligh Gardner in the mix, it it the bowling combination that they need to finalise. The senior pair of Megan Schutt and Jess Jonassen have both cemented their spots in the XI, which means all of Tayla Vlaeminck, Nicola Carey, Annabel Sutherland and Delissa Kimmince – among the seamers – and Georgia Wareham, Molineux and Burns – the spinners – are competing for the three remaining spots.
Australia’s recent team selections have shown they are open to being flexible and changing their line-up according to the conditions. In stark contrast to their successful campaign in the West Indies in 2018, where only 12 of the squad of 15 played an active role in the tournament, Mott has made it clear that their approach has now changed.
“I’ve said from the start, I think we will change up our team quite a bit, we’ve got quite a bit of travel, and we’re playing on a lot of different surfaces.”
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Australia’s preparation in the lead up to the tournament faced a bit of a setback when their first official warm-up match against West Indies in Brisbane was abandoned. However, Mott believes that is a blessing in disguise – giving his team a bit of rest ahead of what is going to be a grueling three weeks.
“Normally you’d be a bit worried by that but I think it actually freshened us up quite a bit. We had some hits indoors, the batters got some volume so we’re pretty happy with our prep at the moment,” Mott concluded.