Lanning set to miss WBBL, no guarantee to return at all

Meg Lanning is almost certain to miss the WBBL and it is possible Australia’s decorated captain may not return at all, depending on how she feels after some overdue time away from the professional cricket fishbowl.

The world’s premier women’s domestic Twenty20 tournament begins in a little over two weeks, with the Melbourne Stars’ first game to be played against Brisbane Heat in Mackay on October 15.

The squad is set to convene on October 10.

Matthew Mott, Meg Lanning and Rachael Haynes after their World Cup victory. Mott has moved to England, Haynes retired and Lanning is on indefinite leave.Credit:Getty Images

Lanning, though, is highly unlikely to have enjoyed enough of a break before the tournament begins, having stepped away from the game in August following an ODI World Cup triumph in New Zealand and then Commonwealth Games gold in Birmingham.

Sources close to Lanning indicated to The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald one plausible scenario is that the 30-year-old may decide on reflection that she does not miss the professional game enough to resume her career.

It has been a more or less constant presence in Lanning’s life for 14 years, after making her state debut in 2008 and then graduating to the national team two years later.

Appointed captain of Australia in 2014, Lanning took time to grow into the role, but after winning the T20 World Cup in 2018 in the Caribbean, the team carried on a run of unrivalled success, including a further T20 crown on home soil in 2020, then the ODI and Commonwealth Games double in 2022.

Meg Lanning celebrates after Australia’s World Cup win.Credit:Getty Images

This became the logical end point for numerous key figures in the set-up: first, head coach Matthew Mott departed to become the white ball coach for the England men’s team, and then Lanning’s trusted deputy Rachael Haynes retired from internationals.

Without Mott and Haynes to help manage the dynamics of the team and the wide range of personalities within it, Lanning would need to reset not only as a cricketer but as a leader over coming years.

“Meg is having a break from the game and we are giving her that space,” Australia’s new head coach Shelley Nitschke said last week. “When the time is right we’ll have those conversations about whether she is back in December or whenever it might be.″⁣

Prior to the Birmingham campaign, Lanning had already given up the captaincy of Victoria, handing the reins to Sophie Molineux. At the time of her decision to step away, the Melbourne Stars’ general manager Blair Crouch indicated Lanning would be given all the time she needed.

“We’re fully supportive of Meg’s desire to have a break from cricket, and we will give her all the time, support and space she needs,” he said.

Lanning had previously stated that her career could well wind up earlier than many expected, depending on how she felt about the game and her long commitment to it.

“It’s probably not something I’ve given a lot of thought to,” Lanning said earlier this year. “I don’t know how long I’ll play for – it could be two years, it could be five, it could be 10 but, for me, I’ve always tried to focus on what I know is coming up and more the short term than anything else.”

Another senior figure, the all-rounder Ellyse Perry, bowled her first competitive spell in more than six months on Sunday, taking 1-7 from three overs as Victoria tied with South Australia in a 50-over game in Adelaide.

Australia’s next international assignment is a five-match T20 tour of India in December, followed by a dual-format home series against Pakistan in January. The next T20 World Cup is due to take place in South Africa in February, before the women’s Ashes are contested in England in June and July.

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