Meg Lanning cautions Australia to be wary of "match-hardened" India

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Australia keen to extend their dominance as New Zealand hope to finish season on a high

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Meg Lanning, Australia’s captain, said that Australia will have to shake off their rustiness quickly as they prepare for the multi-format series against India. Australia last played internationals in April this year, when they &t=1s&ab_channel=Women%27sCricZone">toured New Zealand. India, on the other hand, completed their &ab_channel=Women%27sCricZone">series against England last month with five of the Indians playing in The Hundred as well.

“They’ve played a bit of cricket in UK recently. So they’ll be match hardened,” said Lanning on Wednesday (August 18).

“We’re going to have to be on our game right from the start of the series, which is something we’re looking to do.”

Lanning, from the looks of it, has been having an eye on how &ab_channel=Women%27sCricZone">the Indians have been faring over the last month. After the international series, Jemimah Rodrigues, Smriti Mandhana, Shafali Verma, Harmanpreet Kaur and Deepti Sharma stayed back to play &t=16s&ab_channel=Women%27sCricZone">in the hundred-ball competition.

“They’ve got so many world class players,” said the Australia skipper about their opponents.

“Rodrigues had a really good The Hundred. She may have been a bit quiet in the series against England but she seems to have found some form. Shafali Verma is playing extremely well and is very dangerous. Mandhana and Kaur are some of the top players as well.”

“They’ve got a number of players in their team who are really dangerous. But having seen them play over there a little bit, they look to be in good form and something we certainly have got to be prepared for. That’ll be a good test for our bowlers and batters as well.”

Australia named a 15-member squad earlier in the day, with Georgia Redmayne, the wicketkeeper-batter from Queensland, and Stella Campbell, the pacer who plays for Sydney Sixers in the WBBL, receiving maiden call-ups. Megan Schutt and Jess Jonassen, though, are a couple of big misses for the hosts, with Belinda Vakarewa also opting out.

“There’s no doubt Megan not being there does leave a hole and one we have got used to having around so much,” said Lanning about the absence of Australia’s key swing bowler.

“She is such a consistent player. We’ll certainly miss her but we’ve got a number of fast bowling options and it’s something we’ve worked around building in that area for a while now.”

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“Bringing Stella Campbell into the mix is really exciting. She brings in some real, genuine pace and bounce. We’ve got Darcie Brown, who was in New Zealand not too long ago. Put that with Tayla VLaeminck, Ellyse Perry and Annabel Sutherland, we feel like we’ve got some really good options there.”

“To be honest, I haven’t quite looked at who might take that new ball though. But it’s exciting that there are so many options.”

Lanning has closely observed Vlaeminck in the recent past and is impressed with how the pacer is shaping up. Vlaeminck’s career as often been plagued with injuries, one of which saw her miss out on the T20 World Cup last year.

“I’ve seen Tayla up close in the last six months, working on her physical ability and bowling skills as well. She puts in a lot of hard work. She’s been unlucky with the injuries. We just want her to have a really good run at some point.”

“She’s in our plans to try and become a very good bowler for us. She has some attributes that are very unique and challenge batters in a different perspective. She’s worked hard to get back. The important thing for Tayla is that she has potential to play for many years for Australia and has to get the balance right between making sure she is ready for key games and trying to get that experience into her.”

Apart from ODIs and T20Is, the series will also feature the one-off pink-ball Test match to be played at the WACA at the end of September. It will be one of the two Tests that Australia will play this summer, the second being the one against England early next year as part of the Ashes.

“It’s something that we’re all looking forward to. One Test match every two years has been the process over the last five years or so. To be able to play two Tests at home in one summer against two extremely good opposition is something we’re all looking forward to and extremely excited about,” said Lanning, who has played four Tests so far.

“One of the challenges with playing very little Tests is how do you prepare and how much time do you spend on it, given that you’re actually playing shorter formats. With the Test in this series being in the middle (of limited overs internationals), it’s about doing block training, where you put time aside and work on specifically facing the pink ball. That is the obvious first difference.”

“The more we play, the better we will get.”

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With the number of fast bowlers at her disposal, will the Australian skipper opt for an all-pace attack for the Test in Perth?

“That’s certainly an option we can look at. We’ve got some good depth in both spin and pace bowling options. That is an advantage of having a bigger squad, that gives you more variety to choose from. Generally at the WACA, pace is the preferred option. I still think spin can play an important role in taking the pace off. We’re going to have to get the balance right.”

Australia are amidst a record 24-match unbeaten streak in ODIs. With the first ODI to be played on September 19, Lanning said that the hosts’ focus would be on winning the series.

“Every ODI game we get to play over the next three to four months is going to play an important role in getting us to the World Cup. We are firmly set on winning the series against India. That is an important marker for us.”

“It’s about getting a balance right between getting some experience into players, working what our best method is, what our best team is but at the same time, trying to win every game. The unavailability of some players for this series allows us to do that without making too many changes,” concluded Lanning.