Tahlia McGrath in action. ©Cricket Australia

Tahlia McGrath, who was given her first full-time contract on Thursday (April 30), is being looked at as a potential replacement to Ellyse Perry, who underwent a hamstring surgery that will see her out of action at least till September. McGrath hasn’t played for Australia since the 2017-18 Ashes series and one of the three new faces in the list of centrally contracted players for 2020-21.

Shawn Flegler, national selector, said that McGrath has been on his radar as an allrounder who could play a role with both bat and ball. It is something that Perry has done for a long time for Australia. But in her absence, the 24-year-old is expected to fill the void, ahead of the Women’s Cricket World Cup 2021.

“It’s very hard to replace Ellyse Perry, obviously … but we think Tahlia has those attributes that she could fill a role if required,” he said. “So if Pez doesn’t get back in time to play some games for Australia, Tahlia’s certainly an option to come in and either bat in that middle-order slot, she can open the bowling or she can bowl through those middle overs as well.”

“We’re really fortunate that we do have a number of (allrounder) options; Nicola Carey had a really strong domestic season and has continued to develop her game, Delissa Kimmince keeps ticking along and she’s still a very good option and the young one who’s come through is Annabel Sutherland. They’re all in that allrounder mix who could possibly take a slot or fill a role if Ellyse isn’t fit to play for Australia in the medium term.”

Flegler said that they would take a cautious approach with both Perry and pacer Tayla Vlaeminck recovering from injuries. Though Perry was hopeful of returning in time of Australia’s proposed series against New Zealand, Flegler said they wouldn’t rush her.

ALSO READ: Tahlia McGrath earns a central contract for 2020-21

“The World Cup is still our main focus of this upcoming season so we’ll see how the recovery goes,” he said.

“They’re on track at the moment. We certainly won’t push things along just to get a couple of games into them at the start of the season. We’d rather be a little bit conservative … we don’t want to risk anything.”

While Meg Lanning (28) is still some time away from calling it quits, the Australian selector has begun looking towards the post-Lanning era and has said that McGrath was looked at as a potential future captain, too.

“The captaincy part is really important all around the country and I think we need to develop our young Australian leaders,” he stated.

“At some point Meg is going to retire and our senior players are going to finish up, so we do need those young players coming through to get those leadership opportunities. We’ve seen the leadership attributes in Tahlia for a while. She’s not very outspoken or anything, I think she likes to do things through her actions. She’s also finished a teaching degree where she has to get up in front of students and talk, so there’s that part of it as well.”

“I think she’s just grown and gotten confidence each year over the past few years and you can see that coming out in her game.”