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Josh Inglis proves that he’s no longer just an ‘understudy’

Last updated on 23 Nov 2023 | 07:54 PM
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Josh Inglis proves that he’s no longer just an ‘understudy’

From being viewed as someone who is eternally a reserve player, the wicketkeeper-batter is slowly making the inroads to stardom

"A lot of the games I've been involved in have sort of been at the last minute,” Josh Inglis was spot-on in his assessment of his role in the Australian unit. 

For the longest time, he was the spare tire or stepney in Australia’s well-oiled vehicle. Whenever Inglis had been involved in the national setup, he was either a late call-up or a fill-in for an injured player in the squad. 

But what set Inglis apart from all the other competitors was his flexibility. Need a replacement for a top-order batter; there was Inglis. If you need someone to battle out spin in the middle-overs, there is Inglis. No finishers? Inglis could do that as well. 

Wait, you need a wicketkeeper, Inglis ticks that box as well. It is that virtue of being flexible that has kept him in the loop over the last two years in the national team. If you think about it, no other cricketer in Australia’s rich cricketing legacy has such a diverse profile. 

But something happened at the 2023 ODI World Cup that could go on to define Inglis’ role in this Australian T20I setup. 

No injury, no last-gap replacement, Australia’s selectors opted to go for the bold move of playing Inglis over the seasoned Alex Carey. While he was undone for just five in his first World Cup game against South Africa, he went from strength to strength in the tournament with the bat in hand. 

Be it the swashbuckling 58 he scored to dig Australia out of a slump against Sri Lanka, or the 38 off 28 cameo that helped them to a grandstand finish against New Zealand, or the 28 runs that took Australia to the final in the first place, Inglis played the situation ever so brilliantly. 

That still didn’t make the entire world stop and take notice. So Inglis did the one thing that would finally make the world stop: score a T20I century against India. 

You know those sorts of things that would change your life forever?

Inglis walked into bat in the powerplay, with the score still reading 31/1. While there wasn’t too much on the pitch for the bowlers, the quality in front of him was extraordinary. There was Ravi Bishnoi, who had just bamboozled Matthew Short, the consistent Axar Patel and then the nagging force of Mukesh Kumar. 

If that wasn’t enough, there was the lanky Prasidh Krishna and an accurate Arshdeep Singh. One of them ought to have had a plan for Inglis. But as it turned out, Inglis had a plan for every Indian bowler, and his performance might well be the perfect curtain-raiser for the upcoming 2023 IPL Auction. 

What happened in Inglis’ first delivery at the crease? Boom, a four, one that fits the aesthetics of artistic Instagram cricketing accounts. Then what? A surgically precise cut that evades the diving fielder. Then, the whip. Then a carve. And now, a chip. Inglis had already painted a picture within just 16 deliveries at the crease. 

All of this at a crucial juncture in the innings where Steve Smith was struggling at the other end. While one side was art in the making, the other was almost like a comical drama unravelling itself on a grand stage. 

Before this innings, Inglis had batted at No.3 on only nine occasions. His last half-century in that position came back in 2021, a 72* off 41 that he scored against the Melbourne Renegades in just his first innings at No.3.

Since then, his batting at that position was a mixed bag, sometimes overly pressing on the accelerator, sometimes holding onto the brake too much while the other times releasing the clutch too soon. It was just all over the place. 

But he was someone who suited the role like Scottie Pippen in the Bulls’ legacy. His game was almost unrivalled against both pace and spin, as numbers suggested before the game. His strike-rate of 150.7 against pace and 143.9 against spin was the perfect ingredient for someone at No.3. 

Inglis proved that for the longest time at the Big Bash League (BBL), where he was one of the best-performing batters across phases while donning the role of an opener, a middle-order batter, and even batting as a finisher when his team wanted him. Since 2022, only five players have scored more runs than Inglis' 541. Only Ashton Turner and Matthew Short have had a better strike rate than his 145.8 (min 20 innings). 


When he was dropped on 36, it was destined that Inglis would make India pay a hefty price for that drop. That hefty price knocked on Bishnoi’s doors as Inglis read him like an open book. 

Every Bishnoi delivery seemed to have telegraphed its way to Inglis’s doorstep already. Inglis also made the leg-spinner bowl to his need, as he proactively read the next move, pulling if it was a short delivery and charging down the track to fuller ones. 

If anything, Inglis was one step ahead. He wasn’t too determined to hit it towards the leg-side, nor was he too adamant about only accessing the off-side. Sometimes, he pierced the narrowest of gaps one could imagine, moving well to the leg-side. Whenever he did that, it was like the perfect painting, scoring 58 runs off the 24 balls that he played against the tweakers. 

It wasn’t until Inglis was on 88 that he played the shot of a lifetime. He moved towards the leg-side, read the googly to perfection and played an inside-out that should have fetched him six runs on aesthetics. Be it that or slicing the ball fine off the keeper, Inglis’ innings had it all, and the century was just the icing on the cake. 

While he had that aesthetic that Michael Clarke possessed, he also had the grit, hunger and dogged determination that defined Kevin Pietersen, two of his idols growing up. 

For someone who was always viewed as a spare in this Australian setup, Inglis’ innings couldn’t have come at an opportune time. Given that Australia have already banked on Inglis’ skillset in the 50-over format, it wouldn’t be a complete surprise if they backed him in the shorter version, too, especially with the World Cup in the Caribbean. 

But there’s one that Inglis needs to get rid of: his English accent. 

“I have not lost the (English) accent completely; it sticks a bit. You can probably hear it in every second or third word. Grew up in Leeds, Yorkshire, in the UK, moved to Perth in 2010 at 14, played age group for Perth and grew from there,” Inglis confirmed his English accent.

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