A little nervous, a little wary of the unknown, but raring to be back in Australia colours and erase memories of the loss in her last game – Meg Lanning, the Australia Women captain, is looking forward to her return to the middle after a long injury layoff.
Lanning, No.2 on the MRF Tyres ICC Women’s ODI Player Rankings, had been out of competitive cricket for seven months as she recovered from shoulder surgery. She hasn’t played since Australia were knocked out in the semi-final of the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 by India, missing the multi-format Ashes at home against England.
She is set to return in Australia’s tour of India for three one-day internationals that are part of the ICC Women’s Championship, and a Twenty20 International tri-series with the hosts and England. But first will be two warm-up matches against India A in Mumbai, starting on Tuesday, 6 March.
“It felt a bit like my first tour, heading over here!” said Lanning. “I’m really excited to be here and back around the group.”
Admitting to nerves, she added, “I’m nervous before any game, to be honest. But there is a little bit of unknown and the first time I go out in the middle it’s going to feel a little weird. But I think hopefully it’ll come back quick.”
Matthew Mott, the coach, is glad to have Lanning back. “It makes up a little bit for the loss of Alex,” he said, referring to the retirement of the experienced Alex Blackwell.
“Meg’s really a champion … She’s done a lot of work in rehab. She’s nervously excited. She brings a lot of the youthfulness of a debut series into the group. I knew she’s quite nervous about coming back, but it won’t take long to filter back into our group.”
Apart from Lanning, the squad has some other new faces, including the uncapped Nicola Carey and Sophie Molineux. The coaching staff has also had a shake up, with Shelley Nitschke, the former left-arm spinner, and Ashley Noffke, joining Mott.
Another big day of training in Mumbai! 💪 Our first practice match is TOMORROW against India A! 🙌 pic.twitter.com/9WkEOgXgw1— Australian Women's Cricket Team 🏏 (@SouthernStars) March 5, 2018
The coach said it brought “freshness” to the squad. “Shelley has a decorated career. She’s well known to a number of players and has good insight into the players having coached WBBL and WNCL. She’s a great character, full of life and multi-skilled.
“Ashley’s got a lot of bowling acumen and hopefully he’ll carry on the legacy that Joe Dawes started.”
If Australia win the ODIs, they have the chance to go back to the top of the MRF Tyres ICC Women’s Team Rankings. Despite retaining the Ashes against England, the teams finished equal on points in the multi-format series, which put them one point behind England on the ICC charts.
Mott said it was a “huge carrot” for the team and a chance to “right some wrongs”.
“It’s our opportunity to finish off some unfinished business,” he said. “We felt unsatisfied with the way the Ashes finished and it’s a good opportunity to play two quality teams in different conditions.”