Sport

Still in her early 20s, Meg Lanning is breaking cricket records around the world. By Richard Cooke.
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The big hitter: Meg Lanning, 22, cricketer

Meg Lanning is captain of the Southern Stars in all three forms of cricket. An opening batter, she has captained Australia in the Ashes, and to victory in the World Twenty20 tournament. She holds a number of batting records, including the fastest century in a one-day international by an Australian female cricketer. She is the first female cricket commentator on Channel Nine’s television coverage in more than 30 years. 

Richard Cooke Why are so many commentators former captains? Is it the ability to talk, the tactical knowledge?

Meg Lanning Yeah, it’s a mix of those things. As a captain, you need to be able to communicate well with others, within your team and also outside. And you do think about the game a fair bit. 

RC When you watch games on TV, do you find yourself doing some armchair captaincy?

ML Not sure about captaincy, but I certainly watch a lot of cricket. I like to see what’s going on and observe what the captains are doing, whether it works or not. I think there’s a lot to be learnt from watching men’s cricket and different types of cricket as well. The main thing for me as a captain, watching and learning, is about how to stay ahead of the game. What different people do for different situations.

RC What are some of the innovations you’re expecting this summer? Baseball-style fielding, and catches involving two fielders seem well entrenched. 

ML Fielders and bowlers are getting better at reading what the batters are doing. A lot of work is done on fielding, and trying to get better all the time. The agility of the fielders is something that’s improved a lot over the last couple of years. There’ll certainly be a few surprises over the summer.

RC What about switch-hitting?

ML I’m not sure I’m a huge fan of the full switch-hit, where you actually change your hands. I’m not sure whether that should be legal. But I think the reverse sweep is a very effective shot. Glenn Maxwell’s a great example of that, where he plays it just as well as he does a normal sweep. It can be very effective. It’s no longer a rare shot.

RC Have you tried out switch-hitting yourself in the nets?

ML I haven’t, and I’m sure I’d be terrible at it – I can’t do anything left-handed. I’ve done a bit of reverse sweeping and experimenting with what works there. I know a couple of people who are very good at it.

RC You made your debut at 16 but it took you a while to find your feet. Are you happy you started so young, or does it feel premature, looking back?

ML It was a really good experience to debut early. I had good performances at club level; I deserved my chance, and it was great to play with some of the greats of the game. Mel Jones was playing when I debuted, and I was playing against Karen Rolton as well. I started off quite slowly but I think it was a great experience to get into the system early.

RC When you’re a current player who is also commentating, are you careful about giving away your tactical thinking?

ML Yeah, I think so. You always make sure you have a think about what you’re saying, before you actually say it. While you’re still playing you keep some things quite close to you and guarded – you don’t want to make it any easier for the opposition than you have to. But there’s not too much out there that people or opposition players don’t know about most players.

This week’s highlights…

• A-League soccer: Sydney FC v Melbourne Victory

Saturday, 7.30pm, Allianz Stadium, Sydney 

• ODI cricket: Australia v South Africa

Sunday, 11.20am (AWST), WACA Ground, Perth

• Women’s ODI cricket: Southern Stars v West Indies 

Sunday, 10am, Bowral, NSW

Buy tickets now for…

• Australian Open Golf

November 27-30, the Australian Golf Club, Sydney

• Australian Open Tennis

January 19-February 1, 2015, Melbourne Park

• Big Bash League cricket final

January 28, 2015, Manuka Oval, ACT

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Nov 15, 2014 as "The big hitter". Subscribe here.

Richard Cooke
is a journalist and writer for television. He is The Saturday Paper's sports editor.

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