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Versatile Inglis looking forward to T20 focus after golf scare

The wicketkeeper-batter talks about his injury mishap, leadership growth and adapting between formats

Josh Inglis lines up a pull, Perth Scorchers vs Sydney Sixers, BBL Qualifier Final, Melbourne, January 22, 2022

Josh Inglis could have a variety of roles for Perth Scorchers this season  •  Getty Images

Josh Inglis admits he's not obsessed with every minute detail of batting like certain high-profile national team-mates, preferring to stick with a crash and bash style that has powered him to the fringes of Australia's teams across formats.
"There are those guys who absolutely love batting...like Marnus [Labuschagne] and Steve Smith. I enjoy playing the game aggressively and scoring runs in that way... that's what I love to do," Inglis told ESPNcricinfo.
"Sometimes it comes off, sometimes it doesn't and you look a bit stupid but that's okay."
Inglis' big hitting penchant will be on show during the BBL season, where he looms as the batting talisman for injury-hit Perth Scorchers and is likely to be available throughout their title defence.
Power hitters Mitchell Marsh and Phil Salt have been ruled out for the season with injuries, while Kurtis Patterson, Colin Munro and Laurie Evans have not returned from last season's title-winning team for various reasons.
There will be more pressure on the diminutive Inglis but - like his fearless batting - he remains unruffled having been given firm backing to trust his attacking instincts.
"I quite like that [more responsibility]. I'm one of the more experienced batters in the line-up now," said England-born Inglis, whose favourite batters to watch as a youngster were Kevin Pietersen and Michael Clarke.
"They [Scorchers' hierarchy] don't tell me how to play...I have the backing to play how I want to play. I do chat to [Adam] Voges [Scorchers' head coach] on how to tinker with batting to suit situations. I'll probably be needed to be flexible where I bat, which I don't mind."
Having generally batted for Scorchers at the top of the order, taking the aerial route during the powerplay with great success, Inglis is set to strengthen a weakened middle-order with overseas replacements Faf du Plessis and Adam Lyth likely to open.
Although with both those batters only available for half the season before departing to cashed up new leagues in South Africa and the UAE, Inglis will probably be required to revert back to the top at a later stage.
His flexibility at shuffling around the batting order, where in the middle overs he's often sweeping spinners and running hard between the wickets, has made wicketkeeper-batter Inglis an alluring prospect for national selectors, who rate him highly.
The 27-year-old made his T20I and ODI debuts this year and has been part of Test squads previously. But his versatility with the bat has proven a mixed blessing for Inglis, who is seen as a successor for an ageing Matthew Wade in Australia's T20 team.
"It's why I've been picked in international squads because I can cover both bases," Inglis said about being able to bat in different positions. "But you never can nail down the one role, so it's a good and bad thing. I do like batting in either role though and feel like I have the skillset to perform both well."
In a clear indication from Australia's hierarchy of his standing, Inglis last month captained a strong Prime Minister's XI team against West Indies in Canberra. It was his first time in charge of a team since leading his grade club Joondalup around six years ago.
My set up didn't feel right, the confidence and belief wasn't there. When you don't score runs, you go searching. The chopping and changing was not ideal to get into rhythm
With Australia amid a dearth of leadership candidates in white-ball cricket, Inglis appears to be getting groomed in the hope of becoming a potential option down the track if he can carve out a permanent spot.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Inglis sought an aggressive approach during the drawn pink-ball match on a flat Manuka Oval pitch with inventive fields and rotating his bowlers.
"I spoke to coach [Andre Borovec] that I didn't want the game to drift at any point and wanted to keep the game moving. I wanted to make the West Indies batters think differently," Inglis said. "I feel like being a 'keeper is a leader without the title, so it wasn't too much different from usual, but it was nice to get the brain thinking. They [the selectors] must see something in me and want me to develop."
Under highly-regarded Scorchers skipper Ashton Turner, Inglis will be able to further his development and learn from one of the most astute tacticians in the BBL.
"He has full confidence in the players and let's that be known. I'll definitely be watching how Ash goes about it, he's so smart and a great operator," Inglis said. "Faf too. It would be silly not to tap into his expertise and experience in leadership and batting."
But those best-laid plans would have been scuppered had a freak golf accident on the eve of the T20 World Cup ended his season, as Inglis initially feared.
When a regulation tee shot on a par three caught a bit of turf, his five iron snapped in his right hand and sliced his palm and ring finger.
"There was so much blood. I could see the flesh inside the wound. I was thinking there isn't any way this isn't a bad injury," Inglis recalled. "I was absolutely shattered because I knew my World Cup was done and thought my season was over."
Fortunately, Inglis escaped tendon damage and the injury only sidelined him for a couple of weeks although he was replaced in Australia's T20 World Cup squad by state team-mate Cameron Green.
"I was really lucky not to have suffered a major injury," said Inglis, who only started seriously playing golf during last year's T20 World Cup in the UAE due to many of his team-mates' fondness for the sport. "I haven't played golf since. I'm a bit sheepish although I live near a beautiful course and drive past it every day, so I want to get back on the horse. I need some new clubs though."
Since his return from the injury, Inglis has mostly struggled with the bat apart from a match-winning 85 off 70 balls to lead Western Australia to a tight victory over South Australia in the 50-over Marsh Cup.
Switching between formats, while also being a reserve during Australia's ODI series win over England last month, proved "difficult to get into rhythm" as Inglis tinkered with his batting set up in a bid to end a frustrating rut.
"I had a different set up for white and red ball cricket," he said. "I moved my hands out in white ball cricket for swing room mainly for my power hitting. "In red-ball cricket, I brought my hands in but it felt off. My set up didn't feel right, the confidence and belief wasn't there. When you don't score runs, you go searching. The chopping and changing was not ideal to get into rhythm.
"I've found a middle ground between the two set ups and want to stick with that for now. I'm really looking forward to concentrating on playing T20 cricket for the next month and a half."
Inglis knows a big BBL season could provide the perfect platform for what might be a breakout international year for him with Australia faced with blockbuster tours of India and England, while the 50-over World Cup will be held in late 2023.
The next T20 World Cup is also only 18 months away with Inglis in the frame for a permanent position amid a possible transition for Australia post their disappointing early exit at the recent event on home soil.
"I don't know if Wadey is retiring. Just waiting to see if that position comes up," Inglis said of incumbent Wade. "He's been batting at seven, I might go up to four or five. I'll just be happy to be picked regardless. I'll do whatever job is required."
The hectic schedule means there probably won't be room for Inglis to explore opportunities at the upcoming IPL.
"Fingers crossed I'll be in India as the back up 'keeper for the Test and ODI tour," Inglis said. "If I was to play in the IPL, that means I would be away for four months straight. That's tough on my partner and I'm not keen on that idea."
While all that is ahead, Inglis' immediate focus is on Scorchers' season-opener against arch-rival Sydney Sixers at Optus Stadium on Saturday.
The grand final rematch will double as a celebration for Scorchers' memorable triumph last season, where they had to spend 50 straight days on the road due to Western Australia's Covid-19 border closures at the time.
"It feels like we haven't played at Optus for an eternity," Inglis said. "It will be special and hopefully we can do well and play some exciting cricket for the fans."

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth