Meg Lanning
  • March 4, 2024
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Meg Lanning usually doesn’t have off days at the batting crease. On most days, she’s good. The others, she tries to make sure she isn’t bad. On Saturday, it was the latter.

Only an over before she authoritatively whipped Meghana Singh for a boundary through the legside and then followed up with a clean drive on the up over covers for another four, she was attempting hacks. Quite unlike Lanning.

It was a period where she was failing to time her shots. Sometimes waiting too long to go on the cut, sometimes getting undone by the strongest opposition to her batting – the left-arm orthodox spinners.

By the end of the 10th over, she had chewed up 29 balls for her 30, one of which included an uncharacteristically off-balance slog. She had opened up her front leg and partly fell over while attempting to hit Tarannum Pathan’s offbreak for an inside-out six.

In the next over off Mannat Kashyap, she drove straight to mid off where Kathryn Bryce put down a sitter. Two balls later, she pre-mediated a sweep off the left-arm spinner. So early was she in to the shot that Beth Mooney, behind the wicket, had the angle covered. But Lanning failed in her execution and the ball went past the ‘keeper much finer than it should have.

The rare sight of her batting struggle aside, the rarer sight of her frustration was visible during this period.

“It felt like the wicket was flat-flat and I was missing out a fair bit,” Lanning admitted after the game on Sunday. “Gujarat [Giants] bowled well, kept it pretty tight. I had to adjust a few things. Perhaps could have done that a little earlier, just accelerated a bit quicker. But I wasn’t able to find my groove. I was getting a bit frustrated, I was trying to put a few away.”

Just when she got the timing in place and looked good to boss over proceedings, an attempted cut to a delivery outside off didn’t get the desired result and she was caught at backward point. In an innings where she had largely struggled on a friendly batting surface, she managed to post a 41-ball 55.

“I would have loved to go on with it,” she confessed. “It was a disappointing time to get out. We got on top and then lost a couple of wickets after that too.”

Through the course of her innings, she was lucky, she was scratchy, and her batting was far from her sublime best. Yet, in hindsight, it was not only the highest score by a batter on the night but also arguably the most effective knock of the match. When timing and grace deserted her batting, luck, grit, experience and a few unlikely release shots were her allies. On a surface that multiple players admitted was easy for batting, not one could make merry. Not even Lanning.

It’s been that sort of a tournament for her. Despite some reasonable scores, her struggles to get going early on have been covered up by the explosive batting of Shafali Verma and Alice Capsey. In the powerplay especially, she has scored only 44 runs across four matches, at a strike rate of 81.48, only once scoring at more than run-a-ball. That’s not to take away that in three of those four games DC had batted first, a period where most top-order batters across teams have struggled so far in the tournament.

Yet, despite not being at pace with her best, she has routinely played part in DC’s continuous strong performances with the bat. “It’s nice to score some runs. I would love to do that a little bit differently, so that there is not much pressure on everybody else to up the strike rate,” she admitted. “I’m seeing a little bit of improvement in how I’m playing. I’m not completely satisfied but it’s nice to contribute.”

While this may seemingly be Lanning in her 2.0 version, it remains to be seen what lies in the batting evolution of one of the greatest women’s cricketers. She may have left a bit of cricket from her life, but cricket hasn’t left her as yet. So busy has the calendar been for the Australian with the WBBL, WNCL and WPL scheduled back-to-back, that there hasn’t been much time for her to look away from the game since announcing her international retirement in November last year.

Halfway down Delhi Capitals’ campaign at the WPL 2024 on Sunday evening, she turned up as cold-faced and calm as she routinely does and said, “Once this tournament gets over, there will be a big chunk of time and probably it (retirement from international cricket) will hit me a little bit harder and I’ll have come to terms with it a bit more.”

Lanning doesn’t usually let out a lot of emotions through her words or gestures. In the small peek she’s offered into life post international retirement, she admitted feeling less pressurized by expectations. Even then she quickly asserted, “I’m still extremely competitive.”