Friday, February 23, 2024

Fit again Warner in Australia’s WTC final plans

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McDonald backs Warner, gives Khawaja and Cummins update

David Warner remains in the frame for Australia’s next men’s Test assignment – the World Test Championship final against India at The Oval in June – which looms barely a week after the Indian Premier League concludes.

Warner endured a torrid campaign in his abbreviated Qantas Tour of India, scoring 26 runs (at an average of 8.66) from his three innings before being substituted out of the second Test in Delhi with concussion and then returning home to recover from a hairline fracture of his elbow.

Speculation subsequently grew about the 36-year-old’s Test tenure ahead of Australia’s upcoming WTC and Ashes tour to England, where he has struggled against the swinging ball and averaged 26 (with a highest score of 85) from 25 innings to date.

But Australia men’s team coach Andrew McDonald today confirmed Warner, who has re-joined Australia’s squad for the three-match ODI Series against India beginning in Mumbai on Friday, is currently in the planning for the one-off Test Championship decider that precedes the five-match Ashes.

“At the moment Dave’s fully in our plans for the World Test Championship,” McDonald said in Ahmedabad when asked about the veteran opener’s future.

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“He’s coming back (to India) for the one day series, he’s recovered from his injury.

“We are continually talking to our senior players with what they have coming up, juggling the schedule that’s in front of us.

“We are staring down 274 days on the road – 144 for the red-ball team, 130 for the white-ball team.

“So there’s going to be some give and take within that.”

While conditions and continuity will play a central role in deciding the line-ups both teams take into the second WTC final – New Zealand won the first in 2021, defeating India – the IPL’s scheduling proximity to the showpiece game is of concern to both camps.

Dates of the IPL finals are yet to be confirmed, but India coach Rahul Dravid confirmed the play-off games of that tournament would be held a week before the WTC fixture at The Oval starting June 7.

That ensures Australia and India Test players involved with IPL franchises that reach the finals after the regular season ends on May 22 will have a matter of days to switch formats from white to re ball, and familiarise themselves with English conditions.

“It is going to be a challenge, there’s going to be a lot of logistics involved,” Dravid said.

“It’s not easy.

“The IPL final and the WTC final are just a week away (from each other).

“We’ll try to prepare them as best as we possibly can.

“We’ll think about it once we’ve had time to celebrate this (Test series win) first.”

To help make that transition between formats as smooth as possible, India skipper Rohit Sharma revealed his Test quicks who are engaged with the IPL will be provided with the Dukes-brand balls that are used in the UK.

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“We’re going to be in constant touch with all the IPL guys who are going to be part of that final to monitor their workload, what is happening with them,” Rohit said after his team’s 2-1 series win against Australia that assured their place in the WTC play-off.

“In fact, we’re sending some new Duke balls to all the fast bowlers as well to get them some time with that.

“All of us have played in that part of the world, so I don’t think it’s gonna be a huge problem.

“But I believe in preparation, and preparation again is going to be key for us come the final – which players are available, we’ll try and find some time and see if they can get to the UK as early as possible.”

Of the front-line bowlers Australia are likely to deploy in England for the WTC final and the Ashes that follow, only injured quick Josh Hazlewood (achilles soreness) and allrounder Cameron Green are signed to take part in the IPL that begins on April 1.

Warner is the other probable member of Australia’s UK touring party who will also spend the coming months playing white-ball cricket in India.

McDonald confirmed in-form opener Usman Khawaja has been cleared of structural damage to his lower leg which he injured in a fielding mishap on the penultimate day of the final Test at Ahmedabad.

McDonald and Khawaja discuss the left-hander’s injury prior to day five in Ahmedabad // Getty

“The scans are pretty positive … so he gets some time to rest up now and look forward to the World Test Championship,” McDonald said of Khawaja.

“I’m sure there’ll be a bit of rehabilitation around that, but at this stage nothing structural or anything that will keep him out for long.”

McDonald conceded the proximity of IPL finals to the biennial WTC Championship decider might impact the prospect of assembling a full squad until shortly before the two-month tour of the UK begins, but added other plans for that assignment are well in hand.

“It will be squeezed, pretty much straight on the back of the IPL,” he said.

“We’ll head to England with plenty of time to prepare over there.

“We’ve got things that are almost in place for that – we’ll be well prepared.”

Despite ultimately failing in their quest to regain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy which India has now held since 2017, McDonald noted performances in Australia’s past three away campaigns – a 1-0 win in Pakistan, 1-1 draw in Sri Lanka and 1-2 defeat in India – were creditable in tough circumstances.

But he admitted the defeat in the second Test at Delhi – where Australia surrendered a hard-earned advantage through a second innings batting collapse that saw eight wickets fall for 28 runs in barely an hour – was the moment when hopes of an historic series win were vanquished.

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“It’s a proud group and they’ll see it as a missed opportunity,” McDonald said.

“Not many teams come here and get the opportunity like what was presented in Delhi, and if it had been one-all (after Delhi) who knows how the series goes from there?

“So there’s a lot of what-ifs around that (but) in the last two Tests we got some solid performances.

“We set that as three series in the subcontinent (and) we’ve come away with three wins, three losses and three draws.

“That’s a pretty tough World Test Championship cycle, so to finish on top of the table with that on the calendar is pretty impressive and we’re the world number one too.

“So we’re pretty proud of what the team’s been able to achieve, but in saying that we didn’t achieve what we wanted to here.”

Qantas ODI Tour of India 2023

First ODI: Friday March 17, Mumbai (7pm AEDT)

Second ODI: Sunday March 19, Vizag (7pm AEDT)

Third ODI: Wednesday March 22, Chennai (7pm AEDT)

All matches broadcast live and exclusive on Fox Cricket and Kayo Sports

Australia squad: Steve Smith (c), Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Nathan Ellis, Cameron Green, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, David Warner, Adam Zampa

India squad: Rohit Sharma (c), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, K L Rahul, Ishan Kishan (wk), Hardik Pandya (vc), Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Umran Malik, Shardul Thakur, Axar Patel, Jaydev Unadkatt

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