Analysis: The pros and cons of Cricket Australia’s contract lists for 2022-23

Both Marnus Labuschagne and Tahlia McGrath feature prominently in Cricket Australia contracts list for the 2022-23 season (Photo: cricket.com.au)

Cricket Australia’s recent announcement of their contracted men’s and women’s players for the 2022-23 season serves as a significant talking point for the Australian cricketing public.

The Inner Sanctum analyses the implications of their selections on the direction of Australian cricket over the next 12 months.

Australian men’s contract list for 2022-23

Batting depth in white-ball cricket is on full display

A home T20I World Cup looms for the reigning champions and their contract list for the upcoming period suggests that it’s at the forefront of selectors’ minds. 

A plethora of batting options exists amongst the contracted players. David Warner, Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne, Cameron Green, and Travis Head all look set to contribute in both red and white-ball cricket over the next 12 months. They are complemented by short-form cricket specialists Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Mitch Marsh, and ODI and T20i captain Aaron Finch, in what shapes as a powerful batting group.

A testament to Australia’s batting depth, Ben McDermott and Josh Philippe are a few unlucky ones to have missed out on contracts. McDermott has just come off the back of his maiden international century in Pakistan and his most prolific domestic summer yet with Tasmania and the Hobart Hurricanes, while Phillippe has been a damaging player for both Western Australia and the Sydney Sixers over the past few seasons.

The upcoming three T20I’s and five ODI’s away from home against Sri Lanka will likely see the majority of batters given opportunities to perform. Competition for spots will be in play and Australian selectors will be drawing closer to finalising the exact make-up of Australia’s T20 World Cup batting line-up. 

One thing for sure is that this highly talented batting group is set to provide plenty of headaches and sleepless nights for Australian selectors in the months ahead.

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Rewarding performance

It’s no surprise that Usman Khawaja has received a Cricket Australia (CA) contract following a seamless return to the Australian Test team over the past few months.

Khawaja’s dominant series abroad in Pakistan has cemented his place in the Test side. The 35-year-old missed out on a CA national contract in the 2020-21 season for the first time in five years, however, has again established himself at the top of the order for Australia in Test cricket. 

Khawaja is also joined by paceman and cult hero Scott Boland, who has earnt his first full national contract. Averaging 9.56 with the ball in his short Test career, the Victorian appears to be next in line behind the formidable pace-attack of Starc, Cummins, and Hazlewood.

Whether the 32-year-old will be given the opportunity to add to his match tally in the immediate future remains to be seen, especially with the upcoming red-ball series in Sri Lanka likely to accommodate spin. Regardless, it’s been an incredible rise for Boland, whose 6-7 in the Boxing Day Test holds the record as the most economical six-wicket haul of any Test cricketer on debut.

Another to see his strong performances rewarded has been 27-year-old Josh Inglis, who receives his first Cricket Australia contract.

The West Australian has been a dominant performer at a domestic level and showed glimpses of his potential in the recent home T20i series against Sri Lanka after being a squad member in the victorious T20 World Cup squad in the UAE and parts of the recent home Ashes series. While Carey remains Australia’s preferred keeper in red and white-ball cricket, Inglis will be knocking on the door for a spot as a specialist batter in Australia’s T20 line-up and will continue to press for higher honours.

Investment in youth?

Of the 20 players awarded CA national contracts for season 2022-23, the average age of the group sits just above 30. 

This won’t necessarily be a concern for Australian selectors given the recent success of the squad across all formats, however, it does pose the question of whether there is enough investment in young talent to sustain the quality of cricket Australia produces.

CA’s youngest contracted player for 2022-23 is Cameron Green aged 22, followed by Labuschagne and wicketkeeper-batsman Inglis, both of whom are 27. 

Australian selectors have shown their willingness recently to turn to more experienced campaigners such as Khawaja and Boland for results. Remarkably, Pat Cummins at the age of 28, was the youngest player in Australia’s T20I World Cup triumph.

Having said this, CA will no doubt be hoping the likes of talented youngsters Will Pucovski and Tanveer Sangha continue to hone their craft and push their case for national selection soon.

West Australian all-rounder Aaron Hardie is also one to watch following his stellar performance in the Marsh Sheffield Shield final last week. The 23-year-old took 3-54 off 24 overs in the first innings and posted an unbeaten 174 in the second to put his name up in lights. 

Where to now for Jhye?

Plagued by injuries over his short international career, Richardson’s omission from CA’s contract list will be a bitter pill to swallow for the 25-year-old. 

Having represented Australia in both Test and T20 cricket during the summer, Richardson’s performances were not enough to grant him a national contract. This was despite a terrific contribution to Australia’s Ashes victory over England in Adelaide, where the West Australian took 5-42 in the second innings to help Australia secure a 2-0 series lead. 

Now recovering from a hamstring strain he picked up in Western Australia’s Marsh One-Day Cup final triumph, Richardson will be eager to put himself in the frame for national selection in the near future.

Unfortunately, it appears that the right-arm quick is a casualty of the fast-bowling riches Australia has at its disposal.

Australian women’s contract list for 2022-23

A settled core group of players across all formats

The newly crowned ICC Women’s ODI World Cup champions are a picture of stability heading into season 2022-23. 

Exciting leg-spinner Alana King is the only new addition to CA’s contract list after she broke her way into both Australia’s Ashes campaign and successful Women’s ODI World Cup side after a career-best WBBL season for the Perth Scorchers. 

Australia’s top-order of Alyssa Healy, Rachael Haynes, captain Meg Lanning, Ellyse Perry, Ashleigh Gardner, Beth Mooney, and Tahlia McGrath will all likely be integral parts of Australia’s plans across all three forms of the game.

The versatility of all-rounders Perry, Gardner, McGrath, Nicola Carey, and Annabel Sutherland also means that the depth of Australian Women’s cricket remains at an all-time high.

Extraordinarily, 10 of the 11 players who were part of the recent ODI World Cup victory over England also played in the drawn Ashes Test match in Canberra back in January, highlighting the vast skill sets of the Australian Women’s squad. 

This consistency in personnel is no doubt a daunting prospect for the opposition sides trying to topple the current ODI and T20 reigning champions.

Long-term approach

The inclusions of the Victorian duo, pace-bowler Tayla Vlaeminck, and leg-spinner Georgia Wareham amongst CA’s contracted players signal a show of faith from National Selector Shawn Flegler and Head Coach Matthew Mott.

Both players are currently recovering from long-term injuries, with Vlaeminck sidelined due to a stress fracture in her right foot and Wareham on the mend from a ruptured ACL sustained during last summer’s WBBL. 

Vlaeminck has been cruelled by injuries over the journey, but her raw pace and unlimited potential proved difficult to ignore for selectors. 

Meanwhile, Wareham was a major contributor to Australia’s T20I World Cup triumph two years ago and looks set to compete with fellow leg-spinner King for a spot in Australia’s side upon her return from injury.

The backing of Australia’s selectors in offering Vlaeminck and Wareham national contracts will no doubt be pleasing for both players.

Unlucky to miss out?

It’s difficult to question the make-up of CA’s contract list given the dominance of the Australian Women’s cricket team, however, left-arm off-spinner Sophie Molineux will be one to consider herself incredibly unlucky to miss out on a national contract for season 2022-23.

The WBBL Melbourne Renegades captain didn’t feature during the Ashes and ODI World Cup campaigns due to a foot injury, however, has been an integral part of the Australian Women’s cricket set up in past years. Molineux finished last summer’s WBBL with an economy rate of 5.85 and was also a major contributor to Australia’s red and white-ball series against India in 2021.

World Cup-winning leg-spinner Amanda-Jade Wellington can also be considered unfortunate not to receive a national contract. Wellington was the leading wicket-taker in last summer’s WBBL, taking 23 wickets to guide the Adelaide Strikers to a finals birth. The 24-year-old also featured twice during the ICC Women’s ODI World Cup, picking up three wickets in what were commendable performances from the South Australian.

Despite not receiving contracts, both Molineux and Wellington will be vying to secure a spot in the Australian side for future matches. However, with Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Ashleigh Gardner, and Georgia Wareham all being contracted players, the Australians certainly don’t have a shortage of spin options at their disposal.

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