It has been a week of celebration in Melbourne for both West Indies and Australia. The smiles on the faces of the West Indies team after their Test heroics on Sunday in Brisbane will last for a long time. And despite being on the losing end of an epic, Australia have also had cause to celebrate.
But while Marsh was flying back to Perth on Thursday morning, a young fresh-faced Australian squad gathered for an optional training session at the MCG ahead of the first ODI since that World Cup triumph and scarcely a player skipped the session.
Both sides are missing some big names for a variety of reasons, but the series looms as a very early fact-finding mission for the 2027 World Cup, while Australia also have the 2025 Champions Trophy in sight.
Australia’s youth get their chance
The post-Warner era begins for Australia in ODI cricket, but Australia’s selectors have also rested Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood from the World Cup-winning team while Stoinis is playing franchise cricket after discussions with selectors about a desire to give youngsters some opportunities.
Developing some lower middle-order batting depth in ODI cricket is a key part of the selectors planning for this series with Short and Hardie, who open and bat No. 3 in BBL cricket, set to be trialled down the list in the opening match at least. The selectors’ reasoning is that they have enough knowledge of what those two are capable of at the top of the order in domestic cricket and would like to give them some time in the tougher middle-order roles at international level, given they do not get a chance to bat there at the level below.
While Short would prefer to open, as he has done with great success for Adelaide Strikers in the BBL and Victoria in the 50-over Marsh Cup competition, he understands that there is potentially a chance to grasp a permanent place in the middle-order.
“I do feel more confident at the top of the order but any opportunity you get playing for your country, whether it be through the middle or at the top, I guess that’s the challenge,” Short said. “If the spot is there to be taken, if that’s the only way in, you just have to take that opportunity and try and do as best you can and sort of wait your turn.”
Short has spoken to Stoinis about the transition from being a BBL and one-day opener to becoming a middle-order finisher at international level.
“He’s been in a similar boat,” Short said. “He was really dominant at the top of the order throughout the BBL and probably didn’t quite have the spot available for him at the international level. So he’s sort of changed his game a little bit, obviously batting through the middle and finishing innings. I spoke to him a little bit just on that role change and starting with the field out. But I think it’s still having that same positive mindset.”
West Indies look to build depth
West Indies’ journey to 2027 has already begun with an excellent 2-1 series win over England at home in December. The ignominy of missing qualification for the 2023 World Cup is disappearing in the rearview mirror. Given the qualification for 2027 will likely be done on world rankings, the match-by-match pressure of the ODI Super League has been relieved, however, there is a need to be consistent.
“It’s about giving exposure, getting a core of guys,” Sammy said. “What I’m really happy about is the competition for places. And it’s competition from performance, not the lack thereof. If you give somebody an opportunity to play in your spot, sometimes you might not get it back. As you saw through the Test match, seven guys who have not played [performed].”
Sammy urged his inexperienced group to follow the lead of the Test side and adapt quickly to the style of cricket required in Australian conditions.
“I’m looking at the MCG there, you got to adjust,” Sammy said. “Unlike most grounds where the square boundaries are short, Australia poses that challenge with big square boundaries. It means the ball will be more back of a length, shorter than fuller. So the ability to adjust and that’s the brand. Understanding what’s required. Everybody is clear about their roles.
“Ever since I came in myself, and Shai, we’ve always tried to be clear with what’s required to help us with matches. To me adaptability here in Australia is key. The Test team did it. [It’s the] first ODI series in 2024 for us, we’ve got to come here and be adaptable in these conditions.”
Australia: Steven Smith (capt), Sean Abbott, Xavier Bartlett, Cameron Green, Aaron Hardie, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Marnus Labuschagne, Jake Fraser-McGurk, Lance Morris, Matt Short, Will Sutherland, Adam Zampa
West Indies: Shai Hope (capt), Alzarri Joseph, Alick Athanaze, Teddy Bishop, Keacy Carty, Roston Chase, Matthew Forde, Justin Greaves, Kavem Hodge, Tevin Imlach, Gudakesh Motie, Kjorn Ottley, Romario Shepherd, Oshane Thomas, Hayden Walsh Jr.
Alex Malcolm is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo