New Zealand v Australia T20Is - Women's
No youth policy, but evolution critical: Mott, Flegler
Australia's brains trust reveal the thinking behind their selections for the upcoming tour of New Zealand
23 February 2021, 06:22 PM AEST
The pressure to keep evolving and to prepare for a future beyond Australia's current crop of superstars is behind a push for young talent in the national squad, according to selector Shawn Flegler and head coach Matthew Mott.
The National Selection Panel today named two uncapped teenagers in their 17-player squad to travel to New Zealand next month, with pace bowlers Darcie Brown and Hannah Darlington in line for international debuts.
It left recent Australia squad members Molly Strano and Erin Burns out in the cold, while the likes of Sammy-Jo Johnson, Elyse Villani, Bridget Patterson, Lauren Cheatle and Taneale Peschel could not break in despite strong domestic form.
It continued a trend of blooding young talent; four out of Australia's six most recent debutantes were teenagers at the time.
However, the pair insist they have not turned their back on experienced talent, instead pointing to the broader context of the upcoming New Zealand series, which is a chance to test talent in similar conditions to those Australia will face at the 2022 ODI World Cup, and to the need to continually evolve the side to prepare for a future without their current stars.
Speaking to The Scoop podcast on Tuesday, Australia head coach Matthew Mott explained Australia would have typically taken 13-14 players on a limited-overs trip to New Zealand, but with quarantine requirements preventing them from adding extra players mid-tour, they will instead take 17.
Bench depth in the pace department was critical for those spots with Tayla Vlaeminck and Ellyse Perry still coming back from serious injuries.
"With those (extra) players, you've almost got a free hit to give some players who might have missed out otherwise an opportunity to show what they've got," Mott said.
"It's a bit different to picking a normal squad and it's different to picking a World Cup squad."
Flegler, during a Zoom call with reporters, said the decision to fill those bonus spots with up-and-coming talent rather than experienced campaigners also came down to the constant need to look to not only the 2022 ODI World Cup next March and April, but also 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and the 2023 T20 World Cup in South Africa.
And beyond that, in the knowledge that at some point, Australia's experienced star-studded core of Ellyse Perry (30 years old), Alyssa Healy (30), Rachael Haynes (34), Megan Schutt (28), Jess Jonassen (28) and Meg Lanning (28) will hang up the boots.
"You've got to be looking ahead, " Flegler said.
"It's important our best young players get that international experience where possible.
"That's going to be the challenge over the next few years.
"We've got some of the best players in the history of Australian cricket playing right now but at some point the end comes for everyone, so we need to make sure that team keeps evolving and keeps getting stronger and that's something we'll need to do over the next few years."
While Australia have given opportunities to experienced players in recent years, handing an international debut to Burns in 2019 when the allrounder was aged 31, and recalling 28-year-old Strano on the eve of last year's World Cup, those decisions were made with an immediate major event in mind.
The 18-month gap before the next major T20I tournament persuaded selectors to hand an opportunity to Brown and, in particular, Darlington – both of whom have also backed up their selections with form.
Darlington was second highest wicket taker in WBBL|06 after Thunder teammate Johnson, and Brown, at 17, is capable of reaching speeds of 125kph, placing her in the top echelon of female players.
The 12-month delay to the next ODI World Cup, which was postponed to early 2022, also factored into the selectors' thinking.
"The ODI World Cup being put back a year has pros and cons and one of the pros is an extra opportunity for us to look at some players who we think might work over there," Mott said.
"At that time of year we think pace could be a factor over there and getting some of these players exposure to the venues we'll be playing at is a golden opportunity we were keen to take up."
However, Mott also said those who missed out on the New Zealand squad should not despair.
He said he had been impressed with the recent form of Villani, who has scored a century and a half-century already for Victoria this domestic 50-over season, and said Burns and Strano were simply unfortunate given there were four spinners ahead of them in the Australian squad.
The Australia coach also pointed to the example of Rachael Haynes as cause for optimism.
Haynes was absent from the national side for five years before injuries to Perry and Alex Blackwell in early 2017 handed her a recall aged 30. She has remained in the side since and claimed the vice-captaincy.
"Elyse Villani's form has been exciting … she's doing the right things, she's responded in the right fashion and if she continues to do that she'll be close to being in the picture as well," Mott said.
"Elyse's performances for Australia over the last few years weren't enough to keep her in the team and she forfeited that spot.
"But as we've seen with Rachael Haynes, if you're scoring runs and there's a spot then we'll pick you.
"There's certainly not a youth policy by any means.
"It's all about performance and where there's an opportunity, and that's the hardest thing. From Villani's point of view there's a number of world-class players ahead of her.
"But someone just needs to break a finger or miss a few games and an opportunity can open up."
CommBank tour of New Zealand 2021
Australia ODI & T20I Squad: Meg Lanning (c), Rachael Haynes (vc), Darcie Brown, Nicola Carey, Hannah Darlington, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Tahlia McGrath, Sophie Molineux, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Georgia Wareham, Belinda Vakarewa, Tayla Vlaeminck
All matches will be shown live in Australia on Fox Cricket and Kayo