“Let’s f***ing go”
Meg Lanning isn’t the one to swear generally. But before the match where she could win the 13th World Cup for Australian women, and her 5th as a captain, she was so pumped up to be back on the field that she blurted out an expletive. Shouldn’t she be done with winning world cups already?
Why doesn’t Australia get tired of winning? They have won a million games in the last 3-4 years and lost next to nothing. They have gone through two world cups without being beaten in a single match. Still, their eternal quest for glory doesn’t end.
Like that proverbial crow from children’s stories who kept adding stones to the narrow pitcher to get the water level up, their thirst to win makes them reinvent themselves constantly to win even more than before. If they continue evolving like this, soon they’ll develop a superhuman gene in their body. By all means, who knows they might already have done that. After all, which team wins 90% of their games?
That ridiculous cricketing dominance deserves to be met with repugnant eye rolls. Sune Luus did exactly that in the post-match press conference when asked about Australia being on the podium again.
But how did they get so good? The answer to that question contains a story that needs to be held as a bible for any cricketing board or nation looking to develop their cricket team.
It all begins at the ground level for Australian women’s cricket, where culturally cricket has been strongly promoted as a sport for all genders. In most countries, that’s the place where every girl dreaming of being a cricketer faces a huge hurdle. In Australia, that is more or less invisible. Small but significant steps like referring to Australian national sides as Australian Men’s and Australian Women’s, portrayed cricket as an equal playing field for men and women alike.
All this has allowed Cricket Australia (CA) to have more than 20,000 girls aged 12 and under registered to play cricket. CA also revealed that the figures for this year have 33% better participation numbers than last year. For a country whose entire population is less than Delhi NCR, that’s a huge number.
Once that big first step is taken, the rest of the pathway is very streamlined - starting from the clubs to the junior state sides, and finally the senior state sides. When they reach there, they are given retainers from the state cricket boards which - according to numbers published by cricket.com.au in 2021 - are upwards of 35,000$ for someone holding both a state and WBBL contract. Compared to it, Indian domestic women cricketers are paid peanuts.
Such cultural and financial security combine with an active Australian Cricketers Association to give the players an environment where cricket can be their sole focus. Add to it the chance to play in the WBBL where there are 8 teams and a plethora of spots to play at, Australian women cricketers develop more rapidly and efficiently than any other cricketing ecosystem worldwide.
This has allowed CA to have unprecedented depth and a massive pool of professional cricketers readymade for International cricket. The table below reflects that Aussie women have multiple options as replacements for every position. It’s not as if the current generation of cricketers is old and will retire soon. None of the seniors - Alyssa Healy, Ellyse Perry, Beth Mooney, Megan Schutt, or skipper Meg Lanning - are crossing the 35-year mark yet. The competition for places is only going to get more fierce with time.
Such well-defined pathways are run by a well-oiled administration that has provided all facilities needed to build a world-dominating cricket side. Full-time physiotherapists, sports psychologists, a dedicated strength and conditioning team - you name it and the Australian women have it.
However, at the end of the day what the players do on the field and how they cope with the match situations, is entirely up to the individuals wearing the Aussie colors. That is where the ruthless and ambitious team culture that Meg Lanning’s team has developed has played a huge role.
After the 2017 ODI WC semifinal defeat against India where Harmanpreet’s innings bundled them out of the tournament, there was a lot of soul-searching done by the Australian side. Matthew Mott, the then coach, got together with the team’s psychologist and made every player watch the mistakes they did in that semifinal. They confronted their issues front-on and started working on them with increased intensity. So that the next time, even extraordinary innings like Kaur’s won’t defeat them.
Immense emphasis was also put by Mott and his management on role clarity within the team, and holding players accountable if they didn’t play the role the team has asked them to. Failing in execution was fine, and Meg was ready to back her players to the hilt; but if the player didn’t play according to the demands of the team, they were held accountable. Hard calls like dropping Perry to play Tahlia McGrath were taken. Such decisions forced even all-time greats like her to reinvent their game, and are symbolic of the professionalism and unending drive to improve, that is the hallmark of this Australian side.
In her new version, Perry’s strike rate has increased during each 10-ball phase of her innings when compared to matches played in the previous two-and-a-half years. Even at 32, Perry continues to improve and win games not only with her bat or ball but also on the field. There is no better cricketing journey than hers to exemplify the factors that differentiate Lanning’s Australia from other teams. This team is expected to win every single game, but rather than being undone by their expectations, they are fuelled by them.
Meg Lanning has now led 5 World Cup winning (and 1 gold medal winning) campaigns:— hypocaust (@_hypocaust) February 26, 2023
Meg Lanning 1xODI, 4xT20, 1x🥇
Clive Lloyd 2xODI
Belinda Clark 2xODI
Ricky Ponting 2xODI
Charlotte Edwards 1xODI 1xT20
MS Dhoni 1xODI, 1xT20
Jodie Fields 1xODI 1xT20
Daren Sammy 2xT20#T20WorldCup https://t.co/hL0IfO3JQx
By now, Meg Lanning has won 5 cricket world cups. That is more than Ponting. That is more than anyone ever in the history of cricket. And dear readers, do you know the scariest part that is also awe-inspiring? Australian women’s cricket team’s thirst to win is still not quenched. They’ll continue to fuel the well-defined pathways of women’s cricket in Australia with their undying individual professionalism and ambition, and keep refilling their glasses with the cocktail of domination.
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