Australia’s squad that will defend the T20 World Cup opening this Friday bears a striking similarity to the group that won the tournament in 2018.
But it’s a player who wasn’t there two years ago who is the centre of much discussion.
Annabel Sutherland made her international debut this month, and the 18-year-old Victorian has already been earmarked for big things, with superstar Ellyse Perry telling cricket.com.au recently that Sutherland “could be one of the best we’ve ever produced.”
No pressure then for the daughter of long-time Cricket Australia boss James Sutherland, and the sister of Victorian fast bowler Will. But the 18-year-old already has one over both her father and older brother, becoming the first of the trio to play international cricket. And it’s a fact she won’t let them forget in a hurry.
“We’re all pretty competitive, so there’s been plenty of banter thrown about,” Sutherland tells Wide World of Sports.
“But first and foremost we just want each other to do well, so behind the banter we’re all proud of each other’s achievements.
“I’ve grown up playing footy and cricket in the backyard, so sport dominated a lot of the conversation at dinner, which Mum isn’t always a fan of!”
Sutherland wasn’t even born when her father began his reign as CA boss in 2001. Although no longer in the top job, he continues to play a big role in her career.
“I didn’t really feel any extra pressure when Dad had that job. Having played and coached a lot of cricket he’s obviously had a big influence on my career, he’s thrown a hell of a lot of balls to me over the years,” she said.
Whether or not Sutherland makes Australia’s first choice eleven during the World Cup is still up in the air, but the 18-year-old is adamant she’ll be ready to go if called upon.
“My job is to prepare as well as I can and if I get an opportunity do my best,” Sutherland said.
“I don’t have huge expectations, just soak up as much as I can from the senior players and contribute if I get on the field.”
Australian coach Matthew Mott has conceded that Sutherland’s stats don’t necessarily demand selection. Nine wickets in six WNCL (the 50-over state competition) games over the summer along with five wickets from 10 WBBL matches would hardly have had the selectors thinking they’d found the next big thing.
But according to former Australian wicketkeeper Julia Price, who’s part of the Nine commentary team for the World Cup, Sutherland has been picked partly on results, and partly on potential.
“Annabel’s in a similar position to what Ellyse Perry was in when she started,” Price told Wide World of Sports.
“Ellyse hadn’t even played a WNCL or T20 game for her state when she was picked, but that’s why you have selectors who understand potential.
“She’s clearly ticking a lot of boxes. Matthew’s right, her stats don’t demand selection, but if teams were picked on stats alone Marcus Stoinis would have been picked to go to South Africa. There’s a lot of other factors that go into picking the team, and clearly Annabel is one for the future.”
Sutherland made her international debut during the recently completed tri-series, and while her first match was marked by nerves with the ball (0-23 from two overs) she starred with the bat, making an unbeaten 22 from 11 balls at number eight, helping Australia to force a super over against England.
According to Price, getting the debut out of the way before the World Cup was a bonus.
“Obviously she was a bit nervous with the ball, but she was outstanding with the bat. And you could see the difference with her bowling in the second game, those first game nerves were gone,” Price said.
“It’s a fantastic group of players, and if you’re going to bring in a young player like Annabel, the current group is perfect for that. It’s a great culture and it’s easy to slot in, even as a young player.
“She grabbed her opportunity, and any doubt around whether or not she was ready for the big stage is gone.
“We’ll be hearing a lot from her over the next few years.”
The T20 World Cup will be live on Nine starting on Friday.