Returning Cheatle dreaming of a Baggy Green Christmas

Left-armer hoping to earn a debut in one-off Test against India and a recall to Aussie colours for first time since March 2019

Lauren Cheatle does not need to think twice about what she wants for Christmas.

The left-arm quick has her sights set on a Baggy Green, as she looks to impress selectors ahead of what promises to be a tough call on the final XI to meet India at Wankhede Stadium next week.

Cheatle is back in a senior Australian squad for the first time since 2019, recalled off the back of excellent domestic form after overcoming the latest in a long line of injury setbacks that have interrupted the 25-year-old's career.

Now, she has the chance to become the 182nd woman to play Test cricket for Australia.

"(Getting a Baggy Green) would be indescribable," Cheatle told in Mumbai on Saturday. "Growing up, it's something you dream of as a kid in the backyard. 

"I remember my brother and I used to play mini-Tests when the cricket was on TV, in the breaks we'd go in the backyard and one of us would always be England or Australia, and we had these fake little Baggies that we'd put on. 

"So if there is an opportunity to wear a Baggy Green, it would be unbelievable."

This is Cheatle’s first visit to India since her maiden international tour in 2016.

Back then, she was 17 and still in high school when she was part of the Australian team that finished runners-up to the West Indies in the T20 World Cup.

"It just felt like two months off school and I got to play cricket in India," she laughed. "At the time, I didn't really realise the significance of how big that was. 

"But looking back at it now, it was an incredible experience playing all around India, alongside the men, having massive crowds.

"And I remember going home and going to an exam the following week, so it brought me back to earth pretty quick. But it's super cool to be back."

Four shoulder reconstructions, a back stress fracture and a brush with skin cancer later, Cheatle has a stronger appreciation for what it means to represent her country.

After putting together a full WBBL season for the Sydney Sixers – one which saw her claim 21 wickets at 17.23 to be named in the Team of the Tournament – she is well placed for a return to the highest level. 

"I've had a lot of time off the park and those times I can reflect on, and I think I've really learned to listen to my body and what it needs," she continued. 

"Those times, as much as they were tough, I think I grew a lot ... and I really got the want to play cricket back.

"When I'm sitting on the sidelines, all I want to do is be out in the park, so to be able to put in a full season of Big Bash together was massive for my career. Hopefully it can just improve and I can stay on the park for as long as possible now."

With two training sessions under her belt, the NSW quick will look to make her case for Test selection in Sunday's practice match against the Mumbai women's team.

She is one of three frontline quicks in Australia's squad alongside Darcie Brown and Kim Garth. Megan Schutt is also part of the touring party but is not in the frame for Test selection, and will not arrive in Mumbai until December 20.

At most, two of the three will make the XI.

But given Australia already have pace-bowling allrounders Tahlia McGrath, Ellyse Perry and Annabel Sutherland at their disposal, they could even opt to pick just one of the three, and instead field all four of their spinners.

In Cheatle's favour is the point of difference she offers with her left-arm pace. 

"I'm pretty lucky there's not many left-arm quicks going around in Australian women's cricket at the moment," she said. "But the (younger) ones that are coming through are incredibly talented, so it's a really exciting time for young lefties ... and if the opportunity arises (in this Test), hopefully I can bring something different to the group."

The timing of this multi-format tour means Cheatle and her teammates will spend Christmas overseas – something an Australian women's team has not done since 2004.

But the Bowral product said her family could hardly resent the reason for her absence.

"My partner James is coming over for Christmas, which will be really nice," she said. "My mum and dad and my brother will all be back home in Bowral, so I'll get on the phone to them and in the same breath, they're just super pumped that I'm here, so I don't think I'll be missed at Christmas. 

"(Being away at Christmas) is definitely a different challenge for the group but coming in and seeing the environment that the girls have, it's a home away from home.

"They spend so much time together and there's a genuine love and care in this group so if you're not spending it with your family, I think they'd take this group over any other." 

Australia's multi-format 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

Australia squad: Alyssa Healy (c), Tahlia McGrath (vc), Darcie Brown, Lauren Cheatle (Test only), Heather Graham, Ashleigh Gardner, Kim Garth, Grace Harris (T20s only), Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Phoebe Litchfield, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Georgia Wareham

India Test squad: Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Smriti Mandhana (vc), Jemimah Rodrigues, Shafali Verma, Deepti Sharma, Yastika Bhatia (wk), Richa Ghosh (wk), Sneh Rana, Shubha Satheesh, Harleen Deol, Saika Ishaque, Renuka Singh Thakur, Titas Sadhu, Meghna Singh, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Pooja Vastrakar