In Meg Lanning and Ellyse Perry Australia have perhaps the two best players in the world, both of whom sit amongst the greatest to have ever played the game. But they are far from being a two-person team, and former Australia international and ICC commentator Mel Jones believes her country’s strength-in-depth is largely what makes them tournament favourites.
“There are so many factors that come into getting through a long tournament, which makes depth of squad so important,” Jones says. “Whether it’s someone out of form or there’s an injury issue, you need people to be able to come in to the team straight away and pick up where the rest have left off.”
“When you look at the Australian squad at the moment, they’ve rotated a few positions. A bit of it is match-ups against oppositions,” says Jones. “It’s not just about trying people out. They are very much a horses-for-courses type side and they know they are going to come up against a variety of different teams, so they know they have a squad that can match-up well against the top seven countries in the world.”
One of those to come in against Pakistan was Rachael Haynes, who replaced the injured Lanning. She slotted straight back in as captain, scored 28 and led Australia to victory. “What a magical story,” Jones adds. “She was Australia’s top run-scorer in the 2013 World Cup and played a really good knock in the final too. But then she didn’t play after that – she had four years out of the team.”
“A lot of people back home thought she would be an option to take over from Jodie Fields as captain, because she had captained Victoria and done that very well, but she couldn’t find a way back in with the bat, so found herself out of the side until recently,” Jones says. “But she came back in and scored runs straight away.”
Haynes’ captaincy style and demeanour makes her the ideal last-minute replacement. “She’s an even-tempered captain, quite tactical,” Jones says. “She takes things in her stride – there aren’t things that fluster her too much.”
Elyse Villani is another player who perhaps doesn’t have Perry’s or Lanning’s record, but has shone in the 2017 ICC Women’s World Cup, and knowing exactly what her job in the side is has helped.
“One of the key things for winning major titles is having people who know their roles and how to execute them. It’s all well and good to know you have to do something, but it’s another to execute your skills more times than not,” Jones says. “Elyse Villani used to open, but she’s now moved down to the middle order and she’s there to play her natural game, which is to break open the game by going over the top and sweeping well, and she did that the other day against Pakistan.”
In that game, Villani smashed 59 off 40 balls having come in with her side languishing at 60/3, and it was again the depth in Australia’s batting line-up that gave her the licence to attack. “We saw the other day when Villani came in that the run-rate wasn’t high – there were no boundaries in the Power Play,” Jones says. “But she could come in with that freedom because she knew that there were the likes of Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen and Ash Gardner to come in after her.”
Jones knows a thing or two about winning World Cups, having won two herself in her playing days, and when looking at this Australia team she finds it hard to spot any weaknesses but offers a valiant attempt. “I’m not too happy with the way they celebrate wickets,” Jones laughs. “I think they’re a bit low-key, so they need to work on that a little bit!”