I’ll han­dle the pres­sure, says new leader Haynes

The Cricket Paper - - WOMEN’S ASHES -

Tim Wig­more on the mind­set of Rachael Haynes who takes over as Aussie skip­per from the in­jured Meg Lan­ning

On Sun­day, Eng­land will be­gin their at­tempt to re­gain the Women’s Ashes when they meet Aus­tralia at a sold-out Al­lan Bor­der Field in Bris­bane. But Eng­land will not have to worry about how to get out Meg Lan­ning, Aus­tralia’s cap­tain and ar­guably the finest batter in the his­tory of the women’s game.

Yes, Lan­ning is only 25 years of age. But con­sider what she has achieved: 11 cen­turies, more than any­one else, in 63 ODIs, at an ab­surd av­er­age of 54.52. To put that in per­spec­tive, the great Char­lotte Ed­wards scored nine ODI cen­turies in 180 in­nings.

The only two women with a higher bat­ting av­er­age than Lan­ning played in the Sev­en­ties and Eight­ies.

All of this em­pha­sises the task fac­ing Rachael Haynes. She has had a yo-yo in­ter­na­tional ca­reer, flit­ting be­tween be­ing in the Aus­tralian team and out of it. If her ODI record – 860 runs at 30.71 apiece, with seven half-cen­turies but no hun­dreds in 31 in­nings – is re­spectable enough, it is also a world away from Lan­ning’s record.Yet now Haynes is re­plac­ing Lan­ning as cap­tain and, while she is at it, at­tempt­ing to make up for Lan­ning’s runs, too.

“She’s one of the best bat­ters in the world so any team that loses a player of that cal­i­bre, it’s hard to re­place them,” Haynes says. “One of the great things has been how our team has re­sponded to that. We’ve seen some fan­tas­tic per­for­mances in our do­mes­tic com­pe­ti­tion – the likes of El­yse Vi­lani, Ni­cole Bolton and Beth Mooney.”

At the start of the Aus­tralian sum­mer Haynes has stepped up, too. In her first two in­nings for the New South Wales Break­ers in the do­mes­tic 50-over com­pe­ti­tion, Haynes scored 103 not out and 83 from No.3, two scores that sug­gest she can im­prove on her mid­dling in­ter­na­tional bat­ting record.

“I def­i­nitely feel like the best is yet to come for me,” she de­clares. “I know my game a lot bet­ter than when I was first se­lected as a younger player. I feel re­ally con­fi­dent that I’ve got the skill re­quired to per­form at this level.

“You’re al­ways un­der pres­sure when you’re play­ing in­ter­na­tional cricket, it can be a pretty cut-throat en­vi­ron­ment. I’ve had a re­ally good lead-in to this sum­mer.”

Along with runs, Haynes has had her el­e­va­tion to the cap­taincy to toast. It is a cu­ri­ous sit­u­a­tion.

Haynes had not been picked for Aus­tralia for four years un­til re­turn­ing in Fe­bru­ary, with an as­sured half­cen­tury in New Zealand. It was an in­nings that earned her a berth in Aus­tralia’s World Cup squad, but not their first choice XI.

Only, when Lan­ning’s in­jury opened up a berth in the side, Haynes was not just picked; she be­came cap­tain too, over vice-cap­tain Alex Black­well. Aus­tralia won both matches in which Haynes played, and led, dur­ing the World Cup, against South Africa and Pak­istan. Now, Haynes’ ul­ti­mate re­ward is to lead for the en­tire Ashes se­ries, in lieu of Lan­ning, who is un­der­go­ing shoul­der surgery.

It is a daunt­ing task although Haynes does not seem over­whelmed. At 30 she is ma­ture, and has abun­dant cap­taincy ex­pe­ri­ence – she is one of only two women to have cap­tained both Vic­to­ria and New South Wales, although, bizarrely, she is now vice-cap­tain for New South Wales un­der Black­well, who will be Haynes’ vice-cap­tain dur­ing the Ashes se­ries.

“I’m well-pre­pared as a leader. I don’t feel like I’m go­ing into this se­ries with it be­ing my first time lead­ing a team. I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced suc­cess as a leader and am feel­ing con­fi­dent I can lead this team well – it’s some­thing that I’m more than ca­pa­ble of do­ing. All my cricket ex­pe­ri­ences and lead­ing var­i­ous teams along the way will def­i­nitely help.”

What is Haynes’ style of cap­taincy? She is con­sid­ered an ag­gres­sive leader in the mould of Lan­ning, and hence the least dis­rup­tive op­tion.

“I’m some­one who re­ally en­joys the tac­ti­cal side of the game and re­ally mak­ing sure we’re well-planned and pre­pared for our op­po­si­tion,” Haynes says. “There won’t be any­thing too dras­tic or out of the box. Some of our plans and what we’re look­ing to do might be a bit dif­fer­ent”

Just as it will fall to Aus­tralia’s whole team to re­place Lan­ning’s runs, Haynes says it will fall to the whole group to re­place her cap­taincy. “There’s a great mix of lead­ers within the group. There could have been any num­ber of them who could have been se­lected as cap­tain. I’m very hon­oured that it will be me.”

For Aus­tralia, the Ashes looms as a chance to re­assert their dom­i­nance in the game, af­ter an un­der­whelm­ing World Cup de­fence in which Aus­tralia lost to Eng­land, were shocked by In­dia in the semi-fi­nal and, by their high stan­dards, played some rather in­sipid cricket.

“We’re a re­ally good team who’s played some very good cricket over the last 12 months. Un­for­tu­nately things didn’t go ex­actly ac­cord­ing to plan at the World Cup,” Haynes re­flects. “It was dis­ap­point­ing to get knocked out in the semi-fi­nal. In a big tour­na­ment like that you cer­tainly go there want­ing to win it but we came up against an In­dia team who played ex­cep­tion­ally well.

“We’ve re­viewed that as a squad and have pretty much moved on.You can’t af­ford to get bogged down in the past. We’re just look­ing for­ward to get­ting stuck in.”

And so to the odd dy­nam­ics of one of the most claus­tro­pho­bic se­ries in sport. Both sides play against each other fre­quently, and play along­side each other ev­ery year in the Kia Su­per League and Women’s Big Bash.

“We’ve played a lot of cricket both with and against each other. The sides know each other very well so I don’t think there’ll be too many sur­prises in terms of how peo­ple play or new peo­ple com­ing into teams. It re­ally will come down to who ex­e­cutes best and is able to adapt to con­di­tions. It should be a re­ally hotly con­tested se­ries.”

I’m some­one who re­ally en­joys the tac­ti­cal side and mak­ing sure we’re well planned. There won’t be any­thing too dras­tic or out of the box

PIC­TURES: Getty Images

Stand-in de­liv­ers: Rachael Haynes shows her at­tack­ing prow­ess. In­set: Meg Lan­ning

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