<
>

Australia's woes open doors for aspirants in JLT Cup

Moises Henriques walks back to his mark Getty Images

For the 98 players selected across seven squads for Australia's domestic limited-overs competition, the sight of an underperforming national team being carved up by India in the ongoing ODI series, after an early Champions Trophy elimination in June, preceded by a series defeat in New Zealand earlier in the year, essentially means one thing: opportunity.

Though the national selectors have recently shown a bent more developmental than performance-based - see Sam Heazlett in New Zealand and Hilton Cartwright in India - the current trend of poor ODI results demands that those who raise their hands in the tournament, to be played over the next month, must be given due consideration for the matches that follow this summer's Ashes series.

Such selections would lead, in turn, to long-term preparations for the 2019 World Cup, where Australia will be, despite the underwhelming nature of current appearances, the defending champions of a title lifted at home in 2015. Among the players selected in the squads of the six states, no fewer than 20 have played ODI matches for Australia before, and will thus want to return to the national team, with substantial length of time on their hands, to secure a spot ahead of the global tournament.

That's without mentioning plenty of youthful talents who aspire to a first cap, not least the wicketkeepers, who, on Sunday, were subjected to the sight of Peter Handscomb - a decent gloveman but not his state's first choice - replacing Matthew Wade behind the stumps at Indore.

For defending champions New South Wales (NSW), an initial visit west to Perth takes the Blues out of the early season comfort zone they have enjoyed for the most part since the tournament was given a largely Sydney-centric base in 2013. Their captain for the early part of the tournament, at least, will be Moises Henriques, one of many players to have been shuffled into and out of the ODI team over the past 12 months.

At the age of 30, Henriques is now vastly experienced and a known and respected personality in the domestic circuit. But his underwhelming international record seems scant reward for the years of investment placed in him by both NSW and Australia since he was first identified as a precocious teenage talent well over a decade ago. Looking towards India from afar, Henriques hoped the touring party was looking as much at process as results.

"You should always be concerned with results, but also the process as to why that's happening," he said. "It's not ideal; you always want to be winning, because you're always a bit happier when you're winning. The players are going to be happier if they're winning, but I don't think it's going to be a direct correlation to how we'll go here in the summer.

"Especially being back at home and having hopefully all of our quicks available, which will be a huge advantage. But you've got to ask questions why results aren't happening and if they're related to the process then that's a bit of a concern, but I've only been able to watch the first half of the ODIs, and every time I've gone to bed Australia have looked in a really good position, so I don't know what's happened after that."

Another member of the NSW squad who has, thus far, seemed unwanted as a limited-overs bowler is Nathan Lyon, despite his many feats for Australia in Tests. Henriques suggested that the passage of the India series demonstrated the advantages of choosing a genuinely wicket-taking spin bowler or two.

"What Gaz [Lyon] can do, and we saw it over there in the [Bangladesh] Test matches, he can take wickets the whole way throughout," Henriques said. "That's what you want in a one-day game and that's what we've seen with the attacking Indian spinners: they've just taken wickets the whole way through the middle order of their innings, which continually puts pressure on the batting side.

"Gaz is a wicket-taker, and in one-day cricket we've seen that when he comes back and plays for the Sixers in T20 cricket, he's won us a few games. Last year, in the [50-over] final, he took 4 for 10 off his 10 overs and just kept taking wickets through those middle overs. He's such an attacking bowler that you can set more defensive fields and let his aggressive bowling nature take over. I'm sure he wants to play; it's just a matter of the opportunity for someone like Nathan."

First up on the fixture is South Australia's meeting with the developmental Cricket Australia XI in Brisbane on Wednesday, where Daniel Worrall and Alex Carey will be among several Redbacks pushing for higher honours. "In Brisbane, it usually swings around a bit and that helps our bowling line-up, myself and Nick Winter, Spencer Johnson is a new kid coming up and then Joe Mennie, of course," Worrall said. "If we can get the ball talking up front, it'll give us a huge advantage.

"It's just a matter of bringing all aspects of our game together and putting a good performance in. We've got a lot of guys who are a bit more experienced now, a couple of newer guys, but our middle order now has been settled for three or four years, so we'll be looking for those guys to fire.

"I'm as fit as I've been for a few years at least. The ball's coming out nicely but you never really know until the game starts. I can't wait to play with the Redbacks in one-day cricket again; I only got to play one game last year, so this time around, we're hopefully going to go into the final and take it out."