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Lanning: 'Megan's absence leaves a bit of a hole'

"We'll certainly miss her, but we have a number of fast bowling options," says Australia captain

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
Australia will look to make use of their burgeoning group of pace bowlers over the upcoming matches against India with the possibility of putting their fastest ever collective of quicks together for the Test at the WACA.
The experienced Megan Schutt, who has been locked in with the new ball over the last four years, won't be part of the series for personal seasons but Australia still have formidable resources at their disposal including the potential of young quicks Tayla Vlaeminck and Darcie Brown being teamed up for the first time.
The pace bowling, which captain Meg Lanning has previously pinpointed as a point of difference in the Australia side, has been reinforced with the inclusion of uncapped pair of Stella Campbell and Maitlan Brown, the latter who was previously in the squad against New Zealand last year before being injured in the WBBL. Allrounder Annabel Sutherland, who can also bowl in excess of 120kph, is available again and there will also be interest in whether Ellyse Perry's bowling can return to its previous effectiveness.
"There's no doubt that Megan not being there does leave a bit of a hole. We've got used to having her around so much and she's such a consistent player," Lanning said. "We'll certainly miss her, but we have a number of fast bowling options and we have been working on building that depth for a while now.
"Bringing Stella into the mix is really exciting, she brings some genuine pace and bounce, and we have Darcie Brown. Put that with Tayla, Ellyse and Annabel Sutherland and we feel like we have some really good options."
However, while there may be a temptation to take on India with a barrage of pace if the Test remains in Perth - Covid-19 is threatening to play havoc with schedules - Lanning still sees a key role for the spinners with Sophie Molineux and Georgia Wareham likely to get the chance to fill the shoes of the injured Jess Jonassen.
"[Playing a lot of pace is] certainly something we can look at," Lanning said. "We have good depth in both spin and pace now which is really important and that is an advantage of the bigger squad. Generally, at the WACA, pace is the preferred option but I still think spin can play a really important role, so we'll have to get the balance right. Certainly, [the quicks] are some great options and all of them bring something slightly different which is crucial. You need that variety."
"She is certainly in our plans to become a really important bowler for us."
Meg Lanning on Tayla Vlaeminck
On the prospect of 19-year-old Campbell making a Test debut at the WACA, national selector Shawn Flegler said: "Her height and bounce and now her pace is something that's really exciting. Think if we get to play the Test at the WACA, it is an exciting prospect with Darcie and Tayla as well, that's three pretty genuinely quick fast bowlers."
Vlaeminck played Australia's previous Test, against England in the 2019 Ashes, but an injury-interrupted career has so far limited her to 20 appearances across formats in three years. Lanning cautioned that it was about being able to have her available for the biggest matches which include next year's ODI World Cup.
"She has been very unlucky with injuries so far and you just want her to have a really good run at it," Lanning said. "She is certainly in our plans to become a really important bowler for us, she has some attributes which are really unique and challenge batters from different perspectives.
"The important thing for Tayla is, she has the potential to play for many years and it's getting the balance right in making sure she is ready for key games and getting that experience into her. She doesn't need to peak too early, it's about getting her ready for the right time and getting a good base into her. I've been really impressed with the work ethic she's put in."
Managing all players, but especially the fast bowlers, over what is scheduled to be the busiest ever season, and in what could yet require extensive bubbles, is front and centre of the planning.
"We've communicated to the players that this winter has been about preparing themselves to be right for the next 12-18 months," Flegler said. "We'll certainly look at that pace-bowling group, they are on the younger side a few of them, and we've been really conscious of that and have been trying to bring those players into the squad to give them a little bit of experience.
"We are looking at how we manage those bowlers, it's a multi-format series so plenty of overs to be bowled and we need to make sure we have our best bowlers available for the World Cup final in April."

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo