Villani cracks one-day code but national recall remains elusive
Victoria's in-form opener Elyse Villani may have 'figured out' the 50-over game but her run-scoring spree is yet to be rewarded with a recall to the national team
1 March 2021, 09:22 AM AEST
Elyse Villani believes she has "figured out" the 50-over game, with the Victoria opener confirming she still holds aspirations of returning to the Australian side after a two-year absence despite missing selection for next month's tour of New Zealand.
Villani struck her second unbeaten century of the domestic 50-over season on Sunday, helping Victoria to a five-wicket win over Tasmania in Hobart.
It followed scores of 135no, 81, 11 and 61, and no player has scored more runs after the first five matches of a Women's National Cricket League series than her current total of 420 at 140.
However, that form was not enough for Villani to force her way into Australia's squad for the three T20Is and three ODIs in New Zealand, announced last week.
Villani, who also scored 360 runs at 27 for the Melbourne Stars during Rebel WBBL|06 and was last month named the Domestic Cricketer of the Year, has repeatedly said she has pushed aside worries about selection, instead focusing on enjoying her cricket.
It was a sentiment she repeated on Sunday.
"I feel really calm out there, I feel like I've got it (50-over cricket) figured out at the minute," Villani said.
"It's taken a bloody long time.
"I know it can all change pretty quickly as well but at the moment I'm feeling really comfortable out there in the middle."
The 31-year-old last represented Australia in March 2019, and while she was part of the 2019 Ashes touring party, she was unable to break into the playing XI before being dropped for the subsequent tour of the West Indies.
"I think selection is something I've got no control over, all I can do is keep enjoying the game and time out in the middle which is what I'm doing," she continued.
"(But) I feel like it's everyone's aspiration at this level to go as high as they can, which is the Australian team."
Australia are taking a bumper 17-player squad to New Zealand, as opposed to their usual squad size of 13-14, due to quarantine requirements which would prevent extra players being added mid-series.
The selectors opted to fill the bonus spots outside of the players on the CA contract list with fast bowlers, due to the likelihood that rotation will be required during a compact series and with Tayla Vlaeminck still being managed after returning from serious injury.
There is no reserve specialist batter in the squad, however, given Australia's 21-run winning streak in ODIs, it is unlikely a change would be made to the top five or six during the three-match series unless forced by injury.
And should injury befall one of Australia's ODI opening pair of Rachael Haynes and Alyssa Healy, there is already a replacement within the XI in Beth Mooney, Australia's T20I opener who also bats at the top of the order for Queensland, but typically comes in at No.5 in the Australian one-day XI.
When captain Meg Lanning missed a dead rubber ODI due to a hamstring injury last October, teenage allrounder Annabel Sutherland was promoted to her position at No.3, with Australia's star-studded batting line-up giving them the luxury of handing invaluable experience to a promising youngster in a key position.
The context of the series is also critical, Australia coach Matthew Mott explained following the release of the squad, noting that their thinking with regards to reserve players could have been different had they been selecting a group for a major event like a World Cup.
"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 told The Scoop podcast.
"It's a bit different to picking a normal squad and it's different to picking a World Cup squad."
However, Mott also said those who missed out on the New Zealand squad should not despair.
He said he had been impressed with the form of Villani and pointed to the example of 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."