A series against New Zealand earlier this month was postponed due to quarantine requirements but Australia will finally return to the format in late March against Pakistan. Although there is a T20 World Cup title defence to plot for in just seven months, planning for the 2023 ODI World Cup in India – which has been pushed back to October amid the Covid schedule crunch – is very much in the minds of the selectors.
“When you say 2023 World Cup, it feels like it’s a long way away but I think it’s about 30 games which isn’t many,” national selector George Bailey said.
As in the West Indies, Australia will not have a full-strength side available. Pat Cummins and David Warner have been rested along with Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, who were both in the Caribbean, while Glenn Maxwell is unavailable due to his wedding. However, Steven Smith is set to play his first ODIs since facing India in late 2020 when he smashed back-to-back hundreds.
But with an eye on 2023, of most significance is getting games and experience into players who are still trying to forge ODI careers, returning to the fold or in some cases have yet to start but could play a role in India.
Green cemented his Test position during the Ashes with a series where his bowling thrived and his batting came good at the end after some technical work. To date he has just one ODI under his belt and his overall List A numbers (batting average 31.31 and bowling average 56.40) are underwhelming compared to his first-class figures although there is little doubt he can flourish as his 144 off 101 balls against South Australia last season showed.
With Mitchell Marsh and Marcus Stoinis playing similar roles to Green when it comes to 50-over cricket there could be a squeeze for allrounder positions but he is likely to get opportunity to state his case.
“We love Greeny’s skillset, think it will fit really well into one-day cricket,” Bailey said. “He hasn’t played a great deal of one-day cricket, but we think if we can start to expose him with both skillsets – bat and ball – then he could be really important for us come 2023.”
Labuschange has had a bit more of a chance in the format since his debut in early 2020 with 13 matches under his belt, a century against South Africa and an average of 39.41. Perhaps the only question to answer before the ODI World Cup is whether there is room for both him and Smith in the middle order although they combined impressively against India, at the SCG, in 2020 with a partnership of 136 in 16 overs.
In the absence of Warner against Pakistan he could be an option to open the batting with the development of his legspin also being closely watched for the added value it can bring.
“Marn is a fantastic player of spin, again he hasn’t played a great deal of ODI cricket so what we have seen we really like,” Bailey said. “He also has the added skill of continuing to work on his legspin and that’s something we are keen to explore over the next little while, continuing to build that depth of all-round ability.”
Head, who often batted in one-day style during the Ashes, could almost be a like-for-like replacement for Warner. Although he hasn’t featured in ODIs since 2018, he has a superb List A record that includes two double centuries, an average of 40.75 and a strike rate of 99.60 (Warner’s is 97.15). The ODI century he made in 2017 came opening the batting alongside Warner when the pair thrashed a stand of 284 in 41 overs against Pakistan.
“I won’t jump out of my place on the selection and try to predict the batting order, but a number of players have that skillset,” Bailey said. “Our focus for these one-day games and for the foreseeable future is continuing to develop and give opportunity to those guys who we think might have supplementary skills in terms of bowling some overs or being particularly handy in the field.”
“The highlights for me were how quickly he settled into playing his own game,” Bailey said. “Think that speaks volumes for a group when a player can come in and feel comfortable to express themselves and play the array of shots he’s got. In many ways it felt like we had the flexibility of two Glenn Maxwells through the middle. I loved the fact he was able to adapt the role a different times, batting at No. 3 then slipping down to No. 5…which is a great skillset at that level.”
He will undergo further rehab in his troublesome knee ahead of the Pakistan tour which he carried through the T20 World Cup and has continued to be hampered by.
“I don’t,” Bailey said when he was asked if he any doubts about Finch leading the team in both this year’s T20 World Cup and the ODI version. “But I’m not being silly here, I’m sure Finchy would have liked a few more runs in the series just gone but also putting into context he’s still battling that knee injury a little bit. I’m really excited at the fact that Finchy will get some one-day cricket in the near future and just that ability to spend some longer time at the crease will really benefit him.”
One-day cricket has felt like the forgotten format for a little while amid the pandemic, a T20 focus and the Ashes. Australia now need to put the building blocks in place for India.
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo