Josh Hazlewood set to return to action in Sri Lanka T20I series
Having recovered from a side injury, the Australia pacer hopes to play in the IPL too, but concedes that the schedule could make it tough
Josh Hazlewood is set to return to action in next month's five-match T20I series against Sri Lanka after his Ashes was curtailed to just one match because of a side strain. However, he does not expect to be able to feature in all Australia's matches over the coming months.
"It's been a frustrating couple of weeks, no doubt, watching away on TV with the rest of the country, but the boys have been fantastic," he said at the announcement of 2022 Men's T20 World Cup fixtures in Sydney. "Definitely back for the Sri Lankan T20s, can take it a bit easier now with New Zealand not coming, got a couple of weeks up my sleeve to get right."
He picked up the side injury on the third day at the Gabba, in the first Ashes Test. After a recovery that has taken longer than he expected, Hazlewood had been on track to face New Zealand, but that limited-overs series was postponed earlier this week when the visitors were unable to secure a late allocation of MIQ rooms.
"It's pretty much impossible to play all the games for Australia. We'll have to prioritise whether it's red-ball over white-ball or vice-versa, depending on how your body is travelling"Josh Hazlewood
Hazlewood was one of the key players in Australia's T20 World Cup triumph last November when he took 11 wickets in seven matches with an economy rate of 7.29, which included 3 for 16 in the final against New Zealand. Along with success for the 2021 IPL champions Chennai Super Kings, it made a stellar year in the format for Hazlewood, who felt the benefit of playing regularly.
"I expected to play a part in wins for Australia and get a game here and there in the IPL, but that opportunity for games in a row makes a huge difference," he said. "You learn so much in each game, and they are each a bit different. It definitely exceeded what I thought I could do in that format, but I was quietly confident of playing my role."
Hazlewood is eyeing a return to the IPL this year, but he conceded that there would be a demanding schedule with the added challenges of the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions. Australia are scheduled to tour Pakistan in March to play all formats and then to Sri Lanka in the middle of the year. Currently, there is also a brief T20I series in New Zealand in March, which players in Pakistan would miss, although that now appears unlikely to take place given the border restrictions.
"We've had a look at the schedule and gone through it, especially the multi-format guys, and I think it's pretty much impossible to play all the games for Australia," Hazlewood said. "We'll have to prioritise whether it's red-ball over white-ball or vice-versa, depending on how your body is travelling. As far as time away from home and bubble fatigue goes, there's going to have to be some time put aside to hopefully get home for a week or two."
While Hazlewood is keen for the T20Is against Sri Lanka next month, limited-overs captain Aaron Finch said the squad, which should be picked this weekend, will likely consider the amount of time players have spent in bubbles this season.
"It'll be about giving guys enough time to rest and recharge, get time at home and connect with people because that's probably one thing that we take a bit for granted," Finch said. "Once you're in the hubs and bubbles all the time, you're restricted with who you can see. So, even catching up with family and friends is really important. There'll be some different names in there, which will be really exciting."
With only a year between the T20 World Cups, a huge turnover is not expected in the Australia squad, but one name tipped to get a chance to press his claims is the BBL's leading run-scorer Ben McDermott, who has had a spectacular season for Hobart Hurricanes.
"He's in super form. He's got some big hundreds which dominate games," Finch said. "I'd be very surprised if he's not [there]."
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo