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Kane Richardson: 'If the World Cup had been in June, I wouldn't have gone'

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Ashton Agar excited by the possibility of three spinners at the World Cup (1:40)

The left-arm spinner talks about what the pitches could be like and his pairing with Adam Zampa (1:40)

Kane Richardson is, naturally, thrilled to be part of Australia's T20 World Cup squad but he would also have been at peace if it hadn't happened. Earlier this year, with the Covid-19 pandemic still raging around the world, his priority was to be a husband and a dad.

Richardson had made himself unavailable for last year's home limited-overs series against India to be with his wife and new-born son but was back in Australia colours for the T20I tour of New Zealand in March. However, it was as he quarantined following his hurried exit from the first part of the IPL earlier this year where things changed.

He and Adam Zampa had managed to get back to Australia in the nick of time before the government banned any arrivals from India. The rest of the Australia contingent at the tournament - players, support staff, officials and broadcasters - had to return home via two weeks in the Maldives before they were allowed in.

Richardson was then among the group of players who made themselves unavailable to tour the West Indies and Bangladesh, but with the team's T20I fortunes having nosedived, the group of players who took them to No. 1 in early 2020 are back together.

"When I did withdraw from West Indies and Bangladesh it was spoken about as a real possibility, that guys can jump the queue and take your spot. But at that point I was so firm in the reasons I wasn't going that they were the main priorities in my mind," Richardson told ESPNcricinfo.

"If the World Cup had been in June, I wouldn't have gone, that was my strong position. It didn't matter what series it was, I wasn't trying to pick or choose, it was just at that stage I needed to be at home. It was something I was okay with if that happened as well, you can't miss these series then be upset if your position is taken.

"It would have been nice to be available and played all these games but with all that's happened in the world it's been a really tough time to juggle having a family and being a professional cricketer so I've tried the best I can."

Richardson can now focus again on his day job as Australia try to win the one global limited-overs prize that has eluded them. However, like many in the squad, he is coming into the tournament without much cricket under his belt and for himself what was also disjointed pre-season even though he lives in South Australia which has largely been free of lockdowns.

Despite not touring overseas mid-year, he still found himself back in two weeks isolation at home in Adelaide following Australia's pre-tour camp on the Gold Coast when a Covid-19 outbreak closed the border to South Australia. He then missed another couple of weeks with illness before seeing the plan of a handful of Marsh Cup games reduced to one when the schedule had to be ripped up.

He was, though, buoyed by how things felt in his one outing against a very strong Western Australia team where he took 2 for 61 in a total of 352. "It went from quite a lot of cricket to not much so it was bit of a worry for a time there that there would be no opportunities but it worked out in the end," he said.

It is far from certain that Richardson will feature in Australia's XI - Josh Hazlewood's recent T20 form has added to the squeeze in the pace department - but while he is a bowler who does not perhaps grab the headlines of some of his team-mates, his skillset that includes cutters and slower balls could well suit if World Cup pitches are on the slower side.

"On the surface that plays into my favour but I think spin will play a huge factor and we've got some quality options," he said. "Then I need to fight it out with the other quicks who are all high quality, so it won't be an easy team to make. If I do get selected I think conditions should work in favour of what I have in my arsenal."

In preparation he has been trying to replicate what could happen in the middle as much as possible. "I have been building scenarios in a net session as if you are bowling to West Indies in the last over, game five trying to make the semi-final. You are always trying to put yourself under as much pressure as you can."

However, Richardson isn't one to bluff that he has a host of variations - rather he trusts what he does well. "I haven't got a huge repertoire. I know I've heard other guys say how many they have and I laugh at it because there's not that many. For me there's two, I'm always working on a third one, but it's a back-of-a-hand legcutter and a deep-in-the-hand slower ball. It's not so much just having them but knowing when to bowl them. So it's about keeping it simple and knowing which ones are best suited to various situations."

Richardson was a central figure in the Australia side that found their T20 mojo in 2019-2020. He believes "complete clarity of role" was a key part behind that run of success and is confident it can return.

"For those who have been around since 2019, [it's about] getting back into that mindset of what we each do really well and sticking to that, then everyone has a really good understanding," he said.

Beyond this tournament, there is also the carrot of a T20 World Cup on home soil in 12 months' time, amid the rejigged international calendar, then the ODI event in India in 2023.

"I made a decision that I was going to prioritise playing for Australia and my family, they were the two most important things," he said. "It probably sounds ironic that I missed the next Australian tour, but I needed time at home. For the remainder of my career I'll prioritise playing for Australia for as long as I can and if I'm not doing that, be at home, be a dad and be a husband."