ICC Women's Cricket World Cup 2022
Australia v Australia A on the cards this winter
Australia hoping to bring 30 of the country's best players into camp this winter ahead of the Ashes and women's World Cup in the 2021-22 summer
20 February 2021, 10:09 AM AEST
Home series against India and England and the prospect of Australia playing Australia A are among Cricket Australia's plans to provide their world-beating women's team with the best possible preparation for next year's ODI World Cup.
Ensuring major gains made to the female pathway program are not squandered is another top priority amid ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic.
No area of cricket has been left untouched by COVID-19, in the men's or women's game, with budgets slashed and tours postponed.
Australia A series' were placed on hold, and no National Performance Squad programs took place, for either gender, in 2020.
Cricket Australia Female High Performance Manager Shawn Flegler is eager to see both return in 2021, amid what is intended to be a busy year for the senior Australian players.
Flegler offered cricket.com.au an insight into his plans for the country's top female talent – which do come with a COVID-19 caveat and are subject to budget approval – as he seeks to get the world-leading program back on track after an interrupted 2020.
Australia's top-ranked women's team will next month embark on their first overseas tour since the start of the pandemic, when they travel to New Zealand for three ODIs and three T20Is.
With the rescheduled ODI World Cup to be played in NZ in March and April 2022, it is a perfect opportunity for Meg Lanning's team to acquaint themselves with the conditions.
In July, Flegler plans to host up to 30 of the country's best players in Queensland for an extended training camp that could also feature the mouth-watering prospect of a series of matches between Australia and Australia A, which would revive memories of the popular but controversial Australia v Australia A series in the men's game more than 25 years ago.
An ODI series against India, postponed from January, will be rescheduled for September-October and be expanded to also feature T20Is, before the seventh edition of the Rebel WBBL is played.
England will also travel to Australia for a multi-format Ashes series during the 2021-22 summer, before both teams depart for the World Cup in New Zealand.
There are also plans afoot for England to bring their 'A' team with them for the Ashes, as Australia did for the 2019 edition in the UK.
"We'd like to get some sort of Australia A v Australia series going towards the back end of winter," Flegler told cricket.com.au.
"(We'd) identify players who we think will be used during the Ashes, for Australia A v England A and then for the ODI World Cup and Commonwealth Games (in 2022), so we'll have a group of 25 to 30 players for that (winter camp).
"It's challenging with COVID with those A tours but especially now with the strength of our (senior) side, being able to provide international opportunities for that next layer of players is important."
With no National Performance Squads named for 2020-21, the program is intended to resume this year, although the form it takes depends on whether the first edition of the women's Under-19s World Cup goes ahead as planned in Bangladesh this December.
The International Cricket Council is due to make a call next month.
The NPS program, which sees a group of promising young players train at the National Cricket Centre through the winter, boasts recent graduates including Sophie Molineux, Georgia Wareham, Tayla Vlaeminck and Annabel Sutherland, who have all quickly progressed to the senior side.
"If the Under-19s World Cup goes ahead as planned, it will probably be more of an Under-19s NPS program," Flegler said.
"If it doesn't, it'll probably be more of an Australia A program with some of those best under 19s.
"I can't see it being the full program we've had in the past, it'll be an abbreviated version … but it's been a strength of the last couple of years, those players getting access to that training program and then be able to seamlessly come into the Australian set-up.
"We don't want to drop that off completely, we've had 12 months without it already – and it's been the same for the guys – you need to invest in development.
"I think it's crucial that we get it back up and running as soon as we can. It'll depend on ongoing border stuff ... but the absolute plan is to get something up and running."
Outside of major events including the Ashes, World Cups and the Commonwealth Games, Australia's engagements over the next few years are currently murky.
The ICC has yet to finalise its next edition of the women's Future Tours Programme, but Flegler hopes the series against India this summer will count towards the next edition of the ODI Championship, the quadrennial round robin eight-team contest that counts towards World Cup qualification.
"Hopefully we'll know a new future tours programme with the next women's Championship schedule (soon)," he said. "There'll be no shortage of cricket."