England v Australia T20Is - Men's
Ashes blueprint to be rolled out for UK return
Coach Justin Langer says picking an extended 21-man squad will allow for four spirited warm-up games ahead of the matches against England
20 August 2020, 05:09 PM AEST
Echoing the unprecedented practice match that launched last year's successful Ashes defence, Australia will utilise their larger-than-usual playing group to provide "high intensity" intra-squad training ahead of their upcoming white-ball campaign in England.
The 21-man touring party will gather in Perth this weekend before flying direct to the UK where they will enter initial quarantine in Derby for several days before travelling to stepping up preparations for the six-game T20I and ODI schedule starting on September 4.
In addition to the training permitted while in isolation at Derby, the men's team is planning four warm-up games to ensure they are match-ready – after a five-month lay-off – to tackle an England outfit that has been playing competitive cricket since early July.
With sufficient playing personnel to field virtually two complete teams, the Australians can engage in some spirited intra-squad warm-up fixtures before the first of three T20Is in Southampton that will be immediately followed by three ODIs against the reigning world champions in Manchester.
That represents a similar preparation to the historic all-Australia match held in Southampton last July when two 12-man teams went head-to-head across three days in a selection battle to decide the make-up of the eventual Ashes squad.
Men's team coach Justin Langer said today the lack of competitive cricket for his players since the coronavirus pandemic brought global sport to a standstill last March loomed as his biggest on-field concern for the England tour.
And he noted that in addition to providing essential back-up options should players be sidelined due to health concerns or workload issues once inside the team's bio-secure 'bubble', the size of the bulked-up touring party lends itself to another round of intra-squad game simulations.
"All my experience tells me, regardless of how good the team looks on paper, until you get a bit match hardened and start playing cricket it's always going to be our biggest challenge," Langer said today.
"The reason we're taking 21 is so we can play some good practice games over there.
"The guys have done plenty of technical work, they're all super-fit so when we arrive in England, we get straight into match practice.
"That's what we've asked the boys to be ready for, that they can start playing games and hopefully, because we've got 21 very good players coming with us, we can have some really high intensity practice games."
With so many players to choose from for six matches to be played within two weeks, the UK tour presents an opportunity for numerous selection permutations including potential debuts for uncapped trio Riley Meredith, Josh Philippe and Daniel Sams.
However, Langer indicated Australia planned to field their best XI in each of the matches against England (allowing for player management) and that the longer-term benefit of the expanded touring party would be to build depth ahead of what looms as an atypical Australia summer.
"We'll still be picking our best eleven, that's how it's always worked well in the Australian team," he said.
"And for some of the younger guys, if they force their way in through performance in the practice games, that would be great.
"Otherwise it will just be nice to have them around and give them a feel of what it's like to be inducted into the Australian cricket team.
"That will be important because over the summer, more so than just this tour which will happen very quickly, we'll need our depth.
"We're going to want to get some eyes on them and get them into the group whenever we can, and this is a great opportunity to do that."
Langer has also acknowledged the COVID-19 restrictions under which sporting competitions will operate for the foreseeable future mean some of his team's star performers will inevitably miss international matches to spend time with family away from the cricket 'bubble'.
He reiterated his belief that he and fellow coaches will need to be creative and adapt quickly to the rapidly changing landscape, and compromises will be required along the way thereby ensuring the coming Australia summer will be markedly different from those that have gone before.
"If we’ve got to have bigger squads because we can’t have guys coming in and out – like 12th and 13th men (in national squads returning to play) Shield cricket, which is unlikely to happen - there’s a compromise, that will take some of our best players out of our domestic competition," Langer said.
"If we play the full domestic schedule, we might have to compromise on that - the costs to the game, we can’t let that blow out because that’s important for the health of the game.
"So there might be compromises in the domestic schedule, that’s being worked through at the moment.
"We also might not be able to see our families because we need to keep the show on the road.
"And some of our best players might have to miss some international cricket so they can spend some time seeing families.
"Those are some of the compromises we might be looking at … and work through it as they come up.
"Having said that, if there's anyone who is ready for it, it would be the Australian international men's team.
"Hopefully with our experience and the time we spent on the road for most of our adult life, a lot of us will be ready for it.
"The younger guys who are coming in, it will be a challenge for them.
"They haven't spent as much time within the Australian camp as a lot of us have.
"We'll have to educate them, keep an arm around them, get around them and make sure they're okay."