Gillette T20 INTL Series v Sri Lanka
Ashton's turn: Allrounder looks to take Cup chance
Allrounder discusses his ODI heroics in India, his return to bowling and how his national ambition helps him push through the pain of rehab
Having initially feared another untimely injury might cruel his hopes of an international recall, Ashton Turner has re-focused on a tightly held, deeply personal ambition.
He's not only hellbent on regaining his place in the Australia men's team limited-overs line-up which begins its summer against Sri Lanka at Adelaide Oval on Sunday, but also staying sufficiently fit and in-form to be part of next year's ICC T20 World Cup tournament on home turf.
The first stage of that two-tier ambition has seemingly been passed with flying colours; the 26-year-old has recovered sufficiently from the fracture to his right index finger that he sustained at training late last month, and which required surgery to repair, that he will make his return in Western Australia’s Marsh One-Day Cup game against Victoria today.
The second will be fuelled by his fierce desire to once again don the national colours – this time the predominantly black uniform of the T20 team – having found stunning success in his maiden outings in the ODI format earlier this year.
It was a combination of his wretched run with injuries and the availability of Steve Smith and David Warner having served their respective suspensions that deprived Turner of a berth in Australia's squad for this year's ODI World Cup in the UK.
But having utilised the Australia winter to undergo yet another operation (his fourth) to try and fix his troublesome right shoulder, Turner believes the latest setback to his finger is but a blip.
Turner's re-inclusion would be welcomed by Australia's men's limited-overs captain Aaron Finch (himself under an injury cloud for Sunday's international season opener) who identified the hard-hitting right-hander as pivotal to Australia's T20 World Cup planning.
Finch last week indicated a shift in thinking among selectors as Australia fine tunes its preparation for the showpiece T20 event in October-November next year, with players picked to fill specific roles within the batting order rather than simply nominating the most productive scorers and shoe-horning them into a starting line-up.
"(Turner) is someone who knows how to win games," Finch said.
"It’s a great skill."
Turner's match-winning capabilities were most famously on show in the ODI against India in Mohali earlier this year, and it was that series – his first as an ODI player after making five T20 appearances over the previous two years – that has the former Australia under-19 representative craving more.
"Probably the most exciting moments of my cricketing career have come from playing for Australia, and it’s an environment that I loved being in," Turner told cricket.com.au recently.
"All of my teammates were so welcoming, and I remember once I got into that squad I thought 'this is the place I want to be, this is the team I want to be playing for'.
"I've had some injuries and a bit of time at the WACA gym recently, running laps, doing my rehab.
"But that whole time I had, in the back of my mind, playing for Australia again.
"It's certainly a big goal for me, and I don’t care what format it is, I just love playing for Australia."
It was a goal that Turner feared had been snatched away from him a month ago when he busted his finger at a training session in Perth, initially put his availability for the opening game of the men's international summer - against Sri Lanka on Sunday afternoon (2pm SA time) – under a cloud.
However, the shoulder problems he's endured over recent seasons underscore his capacity to perform under duress just as clearly as his ODI efforts against India earlier this year highlighted the quality of his talent and temperament.
"Bones normally take six weeks to heal so I'm hoping to come back a little bit quicker than that," Turner said earlier this month, confirming that he played a one-day match against Tasmania the day after he sustained the injury.
"I was just thinking it was bruised and I was a bit sore, so I took some painkillers and got through the game (against Tasmania) okay.
"It wasn’t until a day after that I had the scans.
"So I know that I can play with it, but it’s a risk management thing.
"The doctors want me to have longer out - I want to have less time out."
Turner's impatience is understandable given the heroics he performed in his debut ODI series, against India on their home patch last March when Australia lifted themselves from a 0-2 series deficit to win 3-2.
The fulcrum for that historic shift in fortunes was Turner's extraordinary, unbeaten 84 from 43 balls faced, having walked to the wicket with Australia 4-229 in the 37th over and with his team requiring 130 runs from 89 deliveries.
Turner believes a reason he was able to produce such a remarkable knock in front of a disbelieving crowd at Mohali was his last-minute inclusion in the starting XI after his WA teammate Marcus Stoinis was ruled out due to a broken thumb.
"I've played with him (Stoinis) a fair bit for Western Australia and he's a pretty tough bloke, so I thought there's no way he's not going to play this game, particularly with an ODI series on the line," Turner recalled of his second ODI outing for Australia.
"So I remember going to sleep the night before, and cricket was the furthest thing from my mind - I honestly thought I had no chance to play.
"When I got the tap on the shoulder at the toss to say you're playing, it was a bit of a shock to me and looking back on it, I think it was probably a good thing.
"I didn't have that nervous energy going into the game, and when I got a chance to bat, there was so much scoreboard pressure on it really suited my game style or game plan.
"Having just played the Big Bash (with Perth Scorchers) it felt like my T20 game was in a really good place, and I was able to bat like that.
"It's something that I’ll look back on really fondly for the rest of my life probably."
Turner's match-winning knock at Mohali strengthened his case for inclusion in Australia's squad for the subsequent World Cup, but the return of Smith and Warner coupled with the restrictions he faced because of his shoulder problems saw the Western Australian overlooked.
He also opted out of the Australia A tour to the UK that coincided with the World Cup, and from which Australia's Ashes squad was subsequently finalised, to undergo a fourth shoulder operation in a bid to return to the bowling crease this summer.
While the previous three surgeries have brought some relief, Turner has gone on to repeatedly re-injure the joint with the most recent setback – in a BBL match against Adelaide Strikers on Boxing Day last year – coming when his shoulder dislocated as he attempted a throw from the outfield.
His belief that the previous three procedures were not "strong enough" led him to undergo more comprehensive surgery during the Australia winter and, despite the disruption to his rehabilitation caused by the finger fracture, he is confident he will be back bowling his effective off-breaks by the start of BBL|09 in December.
"I'm not too far away from getting back to bowling, and I'm hoping that particularly in T20 cricket it won’t be long before I can play as an allrounder again," Turner said.
"Throwing is going to take a bit more time, but by the start of the Big Bash I fully expect to be bowling again and be able to play a role for the Scorchers, or for Australia.
"It's a really important part of my game, particularly in white ball cricket.
"I've got a pretty serious shoulder injury and its meant that I've played a lot of games not at one hundred per cent, and my bowling and throwing have been really restricted.
"That's well documented, but on the other hand I’ve actually been really fortunate because I've had a really serious injury and yet I haven’t missed a game of cricket because of it.
"I've been able to play as a batter."
Gillette T20 Internationals v Sri Lanka
Australia squad: Aaron Finch (c), Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Glenn Maxwell, Ben McDermott, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Billy Stanlake, Mitchell Starc, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, David Warner, Adam Zampa.
Sri Lanka squad: Lasith Malinga (c), Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Danushka Gunathilaka, Avishka Fernando, Niroshan Dickwella, Dasun Shanaka, Shehan Jayasuriya, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Oshada Fernando, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lakshan Sandakan, Nuwan Pradeep, Lahiru Kumara, Isuru Udana, Kasun Rajitha.
First T20: October 27, Adelaide Oval, 2pm (Fox & Kayo)
Second T20: October 30, Gabba, 6.10pm (Fox & Kayo)
Third T20: November 1, MCG, 7.10pm (Fox & Kayo)
Gillette T20 Internationals v Pakistan
Pakistan squad: Babar Azam (c), Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Imam-ul-Haq, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Musa Khan, Shadab Khan, Usman Qadir.
First T20: November 3, SCG, 2.30pm (Fox & Kayo)
Second T20: November 5, Manuka Oval, 7.10pm (Fox & Kayo)