17/04/2024

Shelley Nitschke is looking to shake up the team in preparation for next year's World Cup. (Image: Cricket Australia)

On the eve of their series opener, the Australian Women’s Cricket team remains undecided on their XI as they deal with the departures of team veterans. Saturday morning will be the first of five T20Is against India over the next two weeks leading into Christmas.

A new era for Women’s Cricket is set to launch under a fresh Captain-Coach combination. Shelley Nitschke, who assumed the full-time head coaching role in the middle of the year, while Alyssa Healy takes over the captaincy in Meg Lanning’s absence.

The retirement of Rachel Haynes and Meg Lanning’s extended leave will shake up the side that has remained largely intact over the previous tours. Nitschke is taking it as an opportunity to plan for the future, with February’s World Cup defence in South Africa at the forefront of her mind.

“The main thing is that we want to go out there and win games of cricket,” Nitschke told reporters on Thursday morning.

“We also understand the big picture – we’ve got a World Cup in February.

“We’ve had some players leave the team with the retirement of Rach and Meg’s not here at the moment, so we’ve also got some opportunities and we need to know what our options are going into that World Cup.”

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The absence of Haynes and Lanning has opened the door for some new inclusions in the batting order. Leading the charge is 19-year-old Phoebe Litchfield, as the only left-hander among the potential inclusions, she comes with a point of difference.

She was selected on the back of an outstanding BBL|08 season where she scored 280 runs at a strike rate of 117. Nitschke has made it clear that there are going to be open spots, with the team looking to find a new dynamic for the next era.

“To have (new players) on tour and pushing for some spots, I think it’s a really good thing for the group,” she said.

“We’ve been quite settled of late, but I think just a little bit of a change like that is quite refreshing and can add a different dynamic to the group as well, so it’s really good to see and it’s really good to have that depth in our selection.”

The side has enjoyed multiple net sessions at DY Patil stadium, the location of the first two T20Is, and loving the conditions so far.

After the initial adjustment period, the known strikers found their rhythm and were firing on all cylinders. Nitschke is confident if the girls can get themselves in, there are plenty of runs to be scored in the middle.

“It’s a really nice venue … the conditions out there were excellent, the wickets were probably just a little bit slower than what we are used to at home,” she said.

“It took us a little bit of time to get used to the conditions (but) it’s a great venue. It’s a really good outfield, I’m expecting a good game in some really nice conditions out there.”

Australia will take on India at 12:30 am AEDT on Saturday morning at DY Patil Stadium. It will be the first of five T20Is to be played over twelve days before Australia takes on Pakistan at home in January.

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