NSW left-armer returns to the Australia set-up for the first time since 2019 but selectors delay naming new full-time captain to replace Meg Lanning
Cheatle bolts back into Aussie squad for India tour
New South Wales quick Lauren Cheatle has earned her first international call up in more than four years as Australia today named a strong squad for their historic multi-format tour of India.
Heather Graham has also earned a recall in the 16-player touring party after missing the series against the West Indies last month, but selectors have held off naming a new full-time captain to replace Meg Lanning.
Alyssa Healy has stood in for Lanning at various times over the past 18 months, but Australia's keeper is no certainty to return from injury in time for the Test match at Mumbai's iconic Wankhede Stadium that will open the multi-format series on December 21.
Australia squad: Darcie Brown, Lauren Cheatle (Test only), Heather Graham, Ashleigh Gardner, Kim Garth, Grace Harris (T20s only), Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Phoebe Litchfield, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Georgia Wareham
The 33-year-old was ruled out of the ongoing Weber WBBL season following the first match of the Sydney Sixers' campaign and needed surgery on her right index finger after an incident involving her two Staffordshire bull terriers.
National Selector Shawn Flegler said they had commenced the process of finding Australia's next full-time skipper, which is expected to be confirmed closer to the tour.
"Alyssa Healy's finger is healing but remains in a splint and our medical team are continuing to monitor her recovery closely.
"We're obviously very hopeful she will be available for the Test, but those decisions are still a while away."
Should Healy not recover in time, Australia could be left with just two primary batters in their top eight in openers Beth Mooney and Phoebe Litchfield, with the rest of the batting positions filled by allrounders, as was the case (bar Healy) for this year's Ashes Test.
Cheatle – currently the equal leading wicket-taker in WBBL|09 with 19 in 10 matches for the Sixers – has overcome a series of shoulder and back injuries, as well as having a melanoma removed from her lower leg, since debuting for her country aged 17 in 2016.
The now 25-year-old left-armer played her last one-day international for Australia in March 2019 but after stringing together her most complete season last summer, she was selected for the Australia A tour of England over the winter, finishing as the tourists' second highest wicket-taker with 11 from five matches, including a five-wicket haul in the third one-dayer.
Flegler said Cheatle would be available for the Test match before returning home to play WNCL once the ODI leg gets underway after Christmas.
"Lauren Cheatle has overcome significant injury setbacks and thoroughly deserves her place in the squad through her performances over the past six months," he said.
"Lauren has playing experience in India (she played three of her seven T20Is for Australia during the T20 World Cup in India in 2016) and provides another fast-bowling option, particularly in regard to the Test match, which is the format she has been selected for."
Queensland big-hitter Grace Harris retains her place in the T20 squad despite not being selected in the three matches against the West Indies last month.
But Harris, like all 16 of her teammates in the Australian squad, has recent experience playing in India following their 4-1 T20 series victory last December and the inaugural season of the Women's Premier League in March.
Australia won the last multi-format series between the two nations held in Queensland in 2021, winning the T20I and ODI series 2-0 and 2-1 respectively with the rain-affected Test ending in a draw for an 11-5 scoreline.
The Test to open next month's series will revert to a four-day contest, similar to Australia's Test this home summer against South Africa in February, after the Ashes Test in June was played over five days, which finished as the first non-drawn women's Test in eight years with Australia winning by 89 runs on the final day.
"A multi-format series against India in India is exciting and presents a huge challenge for our group," said Flegler.
"Most of our players, through last December's bilateral series or the WPL, have played cricket in Mumbai over the past 12 months and have experienced the conditions.
"We'll have an opportunity to acclimatise to the conditions and our preparation in Mumbai will include a warm-up match against a local opposition."
Following the Test from December 21-24, the two sides will play three ODIs at Wankhede Stadium from December 28-January 2 and three T20Is from January 5-9 at DY Patil Stadium, Navi Mumbai.
All matches will be broadcast in Australia on Foxtel and Kayo.
CommBank tour of India
December 21-24: Test match, Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai
December 28: First ODI, Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai
December 30: Second ODI, Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai
January 2: Third ODI, Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai
January 5: First T20I, DY Patil Stadium, Navi Mumbai
January 7: Second T20I, DY Patil Stadium, Navi Mumbai
January 9: Third T20I, DY Patil Stadium, Navi Mumbai
Australian squad: Darcie Brown, Lauren Cheatle (Test only), Heather Graham, Ashleigh Gardner, Kim Garth, Grace Harris (T20s only), Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Phoebe Litchfield, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Georgia Wareham