Belinda Vakarewa and Sarah Aley are the two uncapped players in Australia Women’s squad for the Women’s World Cup in England, starting from June 24. Rachael Haynes, who suffered an ankle injury earlier this year, has also been included in the team.
Vakarewa, 19, is a right-arm fast-medium pacer who played for Sydney Thunder Women in the last Women’s Big Bash League. She also toured with Australia Under-21, the Shooting Stars, to Sri Lanka in March and April this year.
Aley, 32, is also a medium pacer, and played a crucial role in Sydney Sixers Women beating Perth Scorchers Women in the WBBL 2016-17 final. She took 4 for 23 as the Sixers successfully defended 124 and secured a seven-run win. She headed the tournament’s bowling charts with 28 wickets in 16 matches at 11.75.
“This is going to be one of the most tightly contested World Cups in recent times, and we have chosen 15 players that we believe are capable of leading Australia to victory,” said Shawn Flegler, the national selector. “Belinda Vakarewa is an exciting young talent who has made the most of her opportunities that have come her way with the Shooting Stars and more recently during the three-week camp held in Brisbane. She adds some extra firepower with her pace and we are excited to see what she can do.
“Sarah Aley will also add some extra depth to our bowling attack and brings an incredible amount of experience to the group which is invaluable in a tournament like this,” she added.
Vakarewa and Aley will join Ellyse Perry and Megan Scutt to form the pace quartet.
Ashleigh Gardner is the other youngster in the squad. Gardner, who is an offspinner, has represented Australia on five occasions, and in her last game took 3 for 56 in a five-wicket win against New Zealand Women in March this year.
“Ashleigh Gardner is another young player that has really impressed and alongside Kristen Beams, Jess Jonassen and Amanda-Jade Wellington, will form a strong spin attack that provides a range of options with the ball,” Flegler explained. “We’re pleased to have Rachael Haynes back in the squad after suffering an ankle injury earlier in the year and she too brings a wealth of experience having played in World Cups and in English conditions. This is an incredibly exciting time for this team, with the chance to stake their claim as one of the most successful sporting teams in Australian sport.”
Australia qualified for the World Cup after topping the Women’s Championship table with 18 wins in 21 games. Having won the World Cup on six occasions, Australia are the favourites for the event in England. They start their campaign against West Indies Women, whom they had beaten in the 2013 final in Mumbai, in Taunton on June 26.
Cricket Australia, on Wednesday (May 17), had rejected calls from the Australian Cricketers’ Association for mediation to resolve the ongoing pay dispute. It had led to speculation regarding Australia’s participation in the World Cup as the current Memorandum of Understanding expires on June 30, though CA had said that the squad for the Women’s World Cup would be selected and paid.
Pat Howard, CA’s General Manager, said this squad is “irrespective and independent of the status of the MoU”.
“The selectors have chosen this squad irrespective and independent of the status of the MOU,” Howard said. “We are confident that there will be a resolution in place by 30 June and look forward to continuing to support these players to perform at their very best on the global stage.”
Squad: Sarah Aley, Kristen Beams, Alex Blackwell (vc), Nicole Bolton, Ashleigh Gardner, Rachael Haynes, Alyssa Healy (wk), Jess Jonassen, Meg Lanning (capt), Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Belinda Vakarewa, Elyse Villani, Amanda-Jade Wellington