Australia skipper Meg Lanning was ruled out of the Commonwealth Bank Women’s Ashes on Friday, leaving a big hole to fill - both in the batting line-up and in the leadership stakes - for the multi-format series against England.
The most likely candidate to replace Lanning is NSW batter Rachael Haynes, who stepped in for the skipper twice during the recent Women’s World Cup, or vice-captain Alex Blackwell.
But with a wealth of domestic captaincy experience in Australia’s ranks, there could be any number of players putting up their hand for the role.
Haynes became Australia’s 17th ODI captain during the World Cup in England, leading Australia against Pakistan and South Africa when Lanning was forced to rest her injured shoulder.
She’s the most likely candidate, particularly given head coach Matthew Mott has already flagged that the 30-year-old was appointed Lanning’s stand-in with an eye to the longer term.
"We felt that Rachael was very similar in her style to Meg, and that leadership model was something that we wanted to keep together," Mott said in early July.
"I think she's going to be a captain of the future, we have to play things by ear with Meg and how long she can keep persisting with this shoulder injury.
"She's a long-term option for us.”
Australia’s long-term vice-captain, Blackwell has a wealth of leadership experience. She’s currently skipper of both NSW and the Sydney Thunder, while she’s also stepped in as Australian captain on 34 previous occasions – leading her country in one Test, 13 ODIs and 20 T20Is.
Notably, the 33-year-old was Australia’s skipper during the 2010 World T20 in the Caribbean, where she led her team to a thrilling victory over New Zealand in the final.
Blackwell was disappointed to miss out on the stand-in leadership role during the World Cup, with Mott praising the way she handled the situation: “She's an ultimate team player and she understands the reasons why we've gone with that model.
“She's just trying to bring everything she can to the vice captaincy and she continues to do that.”
She can bowl, she can bat – and she can captain, too. Perry has two seasons under her belt as Sydney Sixers captain and she was one of the players in the mix to fill in for Lanning during the World Cup.
However, Perry already shoulders an enormous load in the Australian team. Not only does she spearhead the pace attack, she’s now also the side’s highest-ranked batter in the absence of Lanning. Australia will be depending on Perry to fire with both bat and ball during the Ashes, so it seems unlikely they would add the extra burden of captaincy.
Healy stepped in as Sydney Sixers captain last summer when Perry injured her hamstring, ultimately leading the team to the WBBL|02 title. She’s previously captained Australia A and was also named vice-captain for an ODI in Auckland earlier this year when Blackwell was injured, so she’s seen as a leader in the team. Australia aren’t afraid to have a ‘keeper as skipper – Jodie Fields was Lanning’s predecessor – and, as she pointed out on social media today, she’s available.
Her tweet may have been in jest, but the response from Australia legend Lisa Sthalekar was completely serious.
The opener has captained both Western Australia and the Perth Scorchers, while she also captained Australia A before breaking into international cricket.
But the 27-year-old stepped down from both her 50- and 20-over leadership roles before the start of the 2016-17 summer, citing a desire to bring a better balance to her state and national commitments. She’s also seen as a one-day specialist and has played just two T20Is, whereas Australia would be looking for someone to captain across all three formats.
Villani is currently Western Australia skipper, having taken over from Bolton last summer, and is one of the more senior players in a young Australian squad. The 27-year-old is another who has had experience in charge of an Australia A team, while she also skippered under-age teams while coming up the ranks in Victoria.
Commonwealth Bank Women's Ashes Series
First ODI Allan Border Field, October 22
Brisbane Charity Partner: Lord Mayor's Charitable Trust
Second ODI Coffs International Stadium, October 26
Third ODI Coffs International Stadium, October 29
Day-Night Test North Sydney Oval, November 9-12
First T20 North Sydney Oval, November 17
North Sydney Charity Partner: McGrath Foundation
Second T20 Manuka Oval, November 19
Third T20 Manuka Oval, November 21
Canberra Charity Partner: Lord's Taverners ACT