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News

Aussies overseas: IPL and county cricket amid Ashes build-up

Steven Smith and Marnus Labuschagne among those who will play in the UK while David Warner eyes form in the IPL

Alex Malcolm
Alex Malcolm and Andrew McGlashan
28-Mar-2023 • Updated on 04-Apr-2023
Steven Smith, David Warner and Cameron Green will have differing Test preparation  •  Getty Images, BCCI

Steven Smith, David Warner and Cameron Green will have differing Test preparation  •  Getty Images, BCCI

A host of Australian players will begin their off-season commitments in the coming days and weeks in India and the UK. For some it is another part on the T20 merry-go-round while for others there is an eye on the World Test Championship final and Ashes. Meanwhile, there will be some nervous glances from selectors for any injuries.

IPL 2023

Jason Behrendorff (Mumbai Indians)
The 31-year-old left-armer returns to Mumbai having played his only five IPL games there in 2019 but he spent the last couple of seasons as a squad member at both Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore. He is coming off his best-ever BBL taking 21 wickets in 14 games at an outstanding economy rate of 6.69 in Perth Scorchers' title. Jhye Richardson's absence from the IPL for Mumbai due to a hamstring injury and Jasprit Bumrah's fitness queries, as well as Jofra Archer's workloads, could present opportunities for Behrendorff.
Tim David (Mumbai Indians)
The globetrotting gun-for-hire was underused by Mumbai last year after they paid big money for him prior to even being selected for Australia. The retirement of Kieron Pollard means David becomes a key cog in Mumbai's middle order and a lot will be expected of him with the other overseas batters in Green, Dewald Brevis and Tristan Stubbs all being relatively inexperienced.
Nathan Ellis (Punjab Kings and Hampshire)
He returns for his third season at Punjab. He's only played five IPL games in his first two seasons. He only played two matches in 2022 with Punjab having a strong group of first-choice overseas players. He has established himself as an international quality T20 bowler having bowled superbly in his limited opportunities for Australia. Ellis will also return to Hampshire for the T20 Blast where he was a key part of their title last year.
Cameron Green (Mumbai Indians)
Mumbai splurged $AUD3.15 million on the emerging superstar after he tore India apart in the brief T20I tour last year. His Test century in Ahmedabad will only add to Mumbai's excitement but Green is still very raw in T20. It is unlikely he will play every game for Mumbai and it may be a development year for him given the squad's overseas depth. Australia's selectors will be concerned however about his physical and mental fatigue ahead of the World Test Championship final and the Ashes, given he will have spent four straight months in India and does not travel home or play any red-ball cricket prior to heading to England.
Josh Hazlewood (Royal Challengers Bangalore)
Hazlewood's class is not in question but his fitness is. He was sent home from the Test tour of India due to Achilles tendonitis that has plagued him for two months. That came after he damaged his side in the first Test of the summer in early December 2022 and missed three Test matches. He has barely played any Test cricket over the last 18 months due to injury but he has hardly missed any T20s and has been outstanding in the last two IPLs. Australia's selectors will keep a close eye on him with the World Test Championship final starting just a week after the IPL final. His lack of red-ball preparation will be a major issue.
Mitchell Marsh (Delhi Capitals)
Marsh will be itching for the IPL to get going so he can continue the rich vein of batting form that he is in on the back of being Player of the Series in the 2-1 ODI victory over India. He is likely to bat at No. 3 although Rilee Rossouw's presence in the squad makes Capitals' overseas configuration a little more complicated. Marsh hasn't bowled since returning from ankle surgery and that would only add to his value at Capitals. He has stated that he would also love to be considered for the Ashes as a back-up for Green but he would need to be bowling in order for that to happen.
Glenn Maxwell (Royal Challengers Bangalore and Birmingham)
Maxwell's fitness remains a concern as he continues to recover from his broken leg. He pushed to play the ODI series against India but was clearly underdone. He is a key figure in RCB's team with both bat and ball but he hasn't bowled much during his recovery due to soreness. It will be interesting to see how many games he is able to play for RCB. He has also signed to play the T20 Blast for Birmingham Bears.
Daniel Sams (Lucknow Super Giants and Essex)
Sams joins his fourth IPL team in four years having played three games for Delhi Capitals in 2020, two games for RCB in 2021, and 11 games for Mumbai Indians in 2022. He looks set to be a depth player for LSG. He had a good finish to the season with the ball last year for Mumbai but hasn't shown his full batting capabilities in the IPL. Sams will also return to Essex for the T20 Blast.
Matt Short (Punjab Kings)
The BBL Player of the Tournament has earned a late call as Jonny Bairstow's replacement. It is a great opportunity for Short to further press his claims to be in Australia's plans for the next T20 World Cup. He was superb for Adelaide Strikers, making 458 runs with a strike-rate 144.47 including a thrilling 59-ball century in a huge chase against Hobart Hurricanes and claimed 11 wickets with his offspin. With Aaron Finch having retired he could be an option to open for Australia.
Marcus Stoinis (Lucknow Super Giants)
His IPL stock remains high despite some injury issues over the last 12 months. He only played eight games in the recent BBL due to ongoing side problems that have plagued him for years and he hasn't bowled a lot, although he did bowl well in the ODI series against India. Bowling in back-to-back games remains a challenge for him.
Matthew Wade (Gujurat Titans)
Wade returns to the IPL after winning a title with Gujarat last season although he did spend a period of the season out of the team. He has become a global T20 player in the last 12 months, forgoing Sheffield Shield cricket for Tasmania after the BBL season ended to play in the South Africa T20 league for Joburg Super Kings and in the Pakistan Super League for Karachi Kings. He will likely play a flexible for Titans having kept and batted in every spot in the top seven in the last 12 months and played as a batter only in the PSL.
David Warner (Delhi Capitals)
Warner will be eager to make a statement in the IPL as he has done in the past after an unusual last few months. He is coming off a fractured elbow having missed the last two Tests of the Border-Gavaskar series and he only made his return to playing in the final ODI of the recent three-match series where he batted at No. 4. He has been named Delhi captain in Rishabh Pant's absence and will relish the responsibility having captained Sunrisers Hyderabad to an IPL title previously, and having been denied the chance to captain in the BBL. But he won't get to play any red-ball cricket in the lead-up to the World Test Championship final and the Ashes which will no doubt be a cause for concern for Australia's selectors.
Adam Zampa (Rajasthan Royals)
The abundance of spinners in the IPL has meant that Zampa's opportunities have been limited despite being one of the world's best at T20I level for Australia. He joins his third IPL team having played for Rising Pune Supergiant in 2016 and 2017 and RCB in 2020. He is unlikely to play many games for Rajasthan with R Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal set to be first-choice spinners.

County Championship and T20 Blast

Sean Abbott (Surrey)
Abbott is one of those players who could end up very unfortunate not to have a stab at Test cricket, although this county stint puts him in the right place should injuries hit during the Ashes. He had previously joined Surrey in 2021 before his season was cut short by a hamstring injury.
Cameron Bancroft (Somerset)
Far and away the leading run-scorer in the Sheffield Shield with almost three hundred more than the next best. Bancroft has made a very strong claim for a place in the Ashes squad having briefly returned to the Test fold after his ban in the 2019 series. Has signed for a short four-match stint with Somerset although the selectors have probably already made their minds up either way.
Peter Handscomb (Leicestershire)
Handscomb has a considerable amount at stake as he looks to secure a spot in the Ashes squad. Had an encouraging return to Test cricket in India where he impressed on the tough surfaces. However, his record in England across various county spell is modest with an average of 30.14 and just one hundred from 30 matches. His ability to be a back-up wicketkeeper adds value.
Marcus Harris (Gloucestershire)
Like Handscomb, Harris is pushing for a back-up spot in the Test squad and will still have ambitions of being David Warner's long-term replacement when the vacancy arrives. Was picked apart by England's quicks during the 2019 Ashes and has failed to build on glimpses of promise at Test level although was unlucky to lose his spot during the 2021-22 series.
Matt Kuhnemann (Durham)
The rapid rise of left-arm spinner Kuhnemann continues. A few months ago he was not first-choice for Queensland then he earned an Australia Test call-up and claimed a five-wicket in Indore. Now Durham have secured him in place of Todd Murphy who became unavailable for the first part of the season as CA watch his workload. Quite how conducive home conditions in April and May will be for Kuhnemann remains to be seen.
Marnus Labuschagne (Glamorgan)
Labuschagne has a long association with Glamorgan and his 2019 stint became a key part of his narrative after being parachuted into that summer's Ashes as Steven Smith's concussion substitute at Lord's. He made three Test centuries in four innings during 2022 (including a double against West Indies) and continues to be a run machine.
Chris Lynn (Northamptonshire - T20 Blast)
Lynn had a superb T20 campaign for Northamptonshire last year with 516 runs at a strike-rate of 159.25. After plenty of behind-the-scenes dealings he negotiated a deal to play the majority of the BBL being taking up an ILT20 contract.
Nathan McAndrew (Sussex)
A developing allrounder, McAndrew had a very good season for South Australia where he claimed 28 wickets at 30.46 and scored 289 runs at 48.16. In 2022 he played for Warwickshire, taking 20 wickets at 37.85 and scoring 278 runs at 34.75, including two fifties.
Ben McDermott (Hampshire - T20 Blast)
Has drifted down the pecking order for Australia's white-ball sides after a strong ODI series in Pakistan last year when a number of first-choice players are missing. A poor BBL with Hobart Hurricanes where he averaged just 16.33 has left him with a lot of catching up to do to be in the frame for next year's T20 World Cup.
Lance Morris (Northamptonshire)
Once of the quickest bowlers in Australia, Morris has a good chance of being part of the Ashes squad having been around the Australia team over the last six months including throughout the India tour without yet earning a Test debut.
Michael Neser (Glamorgan)
Will be very much in the frame for the WTC final and Ashes squads given a skillset that is ideal for English conditions. However, it could be that the selectors feel he's better off playing regular cricket and calling him up if required. He is coming off the back of a career-best Shield season for Queensland where he claimed 40 wickets at 16.67 although did pick up an injury late in the campaign.
Kane Richardson (Kent - T20 Blast)
Remains a very effective T20 bowler but it feels as though he is slipping down the Australia hierarchy and faces a challenge to be in the plans for the 2024 T20 World Cup.
Peter Siddle (Somerset)
Still going at 38, Siddle returns to Somerset for another season. Last year, he claimed 27 first-class wickets at an average 23.92. Had a solid Shield campaign for Tasmania with 24 wickets at 25.58. Is returning to Victoria next summer.
Steven Smith (Sussex)
Smith flies in for a three-match stint during May in what has proved the most controversial of the pre-Ashes signings, but it is a fantastic opportunity for Sussex's young batters to learn off the best. Spare a thought for the Sussex net bowlers and those giving throwdowns. He will come up against Labuschagne when Sussex face Glamorgan on May 18.
Will Sutherland (Essex - withdrawn)
Was unlikely to be in Ashes contention barring a huge spate of injuries, but Sutherland is one of the emerging players in the Australian game. Has enjoyed an excellent all-round season for Victoria and took on their Sheffield Shield captaincy, guiding them to the final. However, his hopes of a season with Essex have been ended by a stress fracture of his back revealed after the Shield final.
Chris Tremain (Northamptonshire)
The chance of a baggy green has likely passed Tremain by, but he remains a very consistent domestic performer. He has signed a short three-match stint with Northants
AJ Tye (Northamptonshire - T20 Blast)
His international days are likely behind him but Tye remains a fine T20 bowler who has put on, or rediscovered, some pace. Had an outstanding season for Perth Scorchers where he took 26 wickets.
Sam Whiteman (Northamptonshire)
A solid left hander, Whiteman could be an outside chance of pushing for higher honours if he can put together a strong county season then back it up at home. In this year's Shield, he responded to an early-season pair with a career-best 193 against South Australia but wasn't quite able to build on that.

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo