Molineux's return to be carefully monitored ahead of World Cup

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Sophie Molineux dismantles Pakistan's top-order; Australia lead 1-0

Sophie Molineux in action. ©PCB

Sophie Molineux's return to cricket will be monitored carefully, said Meg Lanning, Australia skipper, following her teammate's return to the field in the Women's National Cricket League for her state Victoria.

Molineux, the spin-bowling allrounder, announced during the Women's Big Bash League that she wanted to take a break from the game to focus on her mental health and wellbeing. She missed much of the second half of the season for Melbourne Renegades.

Molineux is considered one of the brightest talents to emerge from Australia in recent times. Since her international debut in 2018, the left-arm spinner has played a pivotal role in several of Australia's victories. One of the major highlights of her career was helping her team to a fourth T20 World Cup title in the Caribbean in 2018.

With the hosts set to announce their squad for the upcoming T20 World Cup in the coming week, Lanning – also Molineux’s skipper at Victoria – reiterated that the 21-year-old’s welfare was paramount and there would be no attempt to rush her back to the international circuit before she was ready.

"She’s got to be ready, and playing a bit of WNCL is very different to playing in a World Cup in terms of pressure and expectation," Lanning told following Victoria’s 25-run defeat to Western Australia on Thursday (January 9).

"She’s got a process she’s working through to get back playing cricket, so it was great she was available for us (for these games). We’ll keep working with her around what that (process) looks like, but she’s certainly a great player and someone you want in your team."

"It’s important she’s comfortable with what’s going on. There’s a process she’ll go through to make sure she’s ready to step back (to international cricket) … whether that’s for World Cup I’m not sure."

Molineux announced her return in grand style by picking up two wickets for Victoria and also chipping in with a vital knock of 47 against Western Australia. She backed up her first performance, by taking two more wickets in the next match.

"She’s fitted back in pretty seamlessly with both bat and ball and she seems really happy. To have her enjoying her cricket and enjoying herself is the most important thing," Lanning added.

2019 was a difficult year for Molineux, who suffered a shoulder injury for which she required surgery in the early part of the year. The left-hander though returned to competitive cricket in July, earning her Baggy Green when she was called up to join the Australia squad for the one-off Ashes Test in Taunton. She took four wickets in the drawn Test.

Despite her successful return, the team management decided to take a conservative approach, choosing to give Molineux extra time to recover from her shoulder injury. While her rehabilitation continued, the left-armer was left out of the limited overs tour to the West Indies and the home series against Sri Lanka in September-October, only returning to the field for the start of Renegades’ WBBL campaign.

Meanwhile, Erin Burns, who was Molineux’s replacement in the Australian team for both those series, suffered a setback of her own. The allrounder will be undergoing surgery to remove a small bone fragment in her knee. She is, however, expected to recover in time for the next round of WNCL matches, and if selected for Australia, join the squad in their preparation for the T20I tri-series involving India and England ahead of the World Cup.