Australia have pulled an almighty selection shock just months out from the Women’s Twenty20 World Cup, calling up former Ireland seamer Kim Garth for a series in India.
Garth is one of three new faces in Australia’s squad named on Tuesday, with Alyssa Healy confirmed as stand-in captain for the five T20s as Meg Lanning is still on personal leave.
Teenage star Phoebe Litchfield has also been named for her first overseas tour, as selectors weigh up how to best replace Lanning and the retired Rachael Haynes in the top order.
Heather Graham is the other person to come into the squad. She played her sole ODI for Australia in 2019.
Leg-spinner Amanda-Jade Wellington misses out, with selectors keen to trial new-ball combinations ahead of February’s World Cup in South Africa.
However, of all changes, it is the selection of Garth that is the most surprising.
The right-armer has played 51 T20s for Ireland and was named the country’s player of the decade in 2021 after making her debut as a 14-year-old in 2010.
But she gave up on international cricket in 2019 when she moved to Australia to try to become a professional, and then became eligible to represent her new country when she gained permanent residency.
The 26-year-old is now in the box seat to earn a World Cup call-up, with Australia searching for pace-bowling options ahead of the tournament.
“Kim’s been in our thinking,” chief selector Shawn Flegler said.
“She’s had a couple of strong seasons with the ball and adds extra depth to our pace bowling stocks.”
The other point of interest is how selectors replace Lanning and her former vice-captain, Haynes, in the top order.
From a leadership perspective, Tahlia McGrath has been named as Healy’s deputy, with no certainty about when, or if, Lanning will return to the set-up.
The most likely option remains Ellyse Perry and Annabel Sutherland taking the vacant spots in the XI, after being reserves through the Commonwealth Games.
However, Litchfield’s selection in the 15-woman squad opens the door for the 19-year-old to force her way in once her chance comes.
Beyond that, selectors also want to offer crucial experience of training and playing in India with a multi-format series there next year and 50-over World Cup in 2025.
“Without Meg and Rachael, this series will provide opportunities for players, particularly in the top order,” Flegler said.
“So we’re looking forward to seeing who puts their hand up.
“We’ve had an eye on Phoebe for a while and she’s really taken her game to the next level this summer.”
“We’re looking forward to seeing what she can do in Australian colours.”