Australia captain Meg Lanning will return to international cricket during the upcoming India tour as she will lead the ODI and T20 sides after being out of action for seven months. Allrounders Sophie Molineux and Nicola Carey will be in line for their international debuts as both were picked for both formats.
Australia were, however, without two injured players - South Australia allrounder Tahlia McGrath and New South Wales quick Lauren Cheatle. McGrath played a key role in Australia's Ashes success and was in good form during the WBBL as well but experienced back pain in the final round of the Women's National Cricket League, as scans showed a recurrence of bone oedema in her lumbar spine. Cheatle had missed the Ashes T20Is with a back injury and has not played since then.
Lanning played her last international match in July - the World Cup semi-final against India in Derby where Australia lost by 36 runs. In August, she underwent shoulder surgery and missed the Ashes as well as the WBBL as a result. She was hoping to make a return for Victoria in the final round of the WNCL last weekend but Australia decided to go easy with her return.
"Meg's rehab has been progressing well, she's back to her old self with the bat and with a few weeks until the first match, we're confident she'll be right to play when the times comes," national selection Shawn Flegler said. "Meg will resume the captaincy and we're extremely fortunate to have Rach as her deputy after doing a fantastic job as stand-in skipper during the Women's Ashes. She'll be a great sounding board for Meg and will continue to drive the standards of the team."
Rachael Haynes was named the vice-captain of the two squads after Alex Blackwell retired from international cricket recently.
Molineux and Carey are two promising allrounders picked in the squads. Molineux represented the Melbourne Renegades in the WBBL and was named the Young Gun of the Year during the third season after she scored 318 runs and picked six wickets with an economy rate of 6.38. In the six innings of the WNCL, Molineux scored 170 runs with two half-centuries and collected eight wickets with an economy rate of 3.46. The left-arm bowler was also given the Betty Wilson Young Cricketer of the Year award in January 2017.
"Sophie is a really exciting youngster that has shown immense talent as a batter and spin bowler and someone who the selectors have had their eyes on for a while," Flegler said. "She's been a standout especially in the Women's Big Bash and this tour will give her the opportunity to get a taste of the Australian setup in what will be some challenging Indian conditions."
Carey, who represented the Sydney Thunder, scored 149 runs from 10 innings in the WBBL but at an impressive strike rate of 126.27 and struck a 19-ball 47 against the Renegades in Sydney in December. Also a left-hand bat like Molineux, Carey bowls right-arm medium-pace and picked 17 wickets in the WBBL, joint-fourth on the wickets tally.
With the 2018 and 2020 World T20s coming up, Australia also saw the inclusions of two youngsters and recent international debutants in the squad - NSW team-mates Belinda Vakarewa and Naomi Stalenberg. Vakarewa made her ODI debut in the World Cup last year and returned to the ODI squad after missing the Ashes. Stalenberg, on the other hand, made her T20I debut two years ago against India and will have chance to add more caps to her name after a few middle-order cameos for the Thunder in the WBBL.
Former internationals Shelley Nitschke and Ashley Noffke will travel with the squads as assistant coaches in place of the outgoing coaches Tim Coyle and Joe Dawes.
Australia will fly to India on March 3 and will play two warm-up matches in Mumbai on March 6 and 8 before heading to Vadodara for the three ODIs starting March 12. They will then return to Mumbai for the T20 tri-series featuring India and England.