Australia skipper Meg Lanning is forcing herself to look on the bright side of her extended stint on the sidelines as she moves closer to a return from shoulder surgery.
Lanning hasn’t played since Australia were knocked out of the Women’s World Cup semi-finals in late July, having gone under the knife in August.
She hopes to make a return to competitive cricket in mid-February, but has been limited to sitting on the sidelines this summer, watching from the outer as the women’s game has gone from strength to strength – first with the record-breaking Commonwealth Bank Women’s Ashes series and now with the ongoing third edition of the Rebel Women’s Big Bash League.
Sitting out for five months (and counting) is unfamiliar territory for Lanning, who has broken a slew of records and barely missed a beat since making her state debut aged 16 in 2008.
The 25-year-old is itching to be back in the middle, but accepts the unwanted mid-career break has given her time to take stock and observe her team from a different perspective.
"It has taken me a little while to get my head around (missing out),” Lanning said. “The Ashes were hard to watch and not be a part of it.
"I was frustrated not being part of that, but on the other side it has given me a chance to have a mid-career break, step back and have a different perspective on things, on my own game and on the team and how we can get better.
"In the long run, even though I don’t feel like it now, I think it’ll end up being a positive."
Still eager to be around the Australian group but careful not to hover too closely over the shoulder of stand-in captain Rachael Haynes, Lanning made intermittent appearances during the Women’s Ashes.
One major bright spot for the injured skipper was watching some of the country’s rising stars step up during the multi-format series – particularly Queensland opener Beth Mooney, who responded to her ODI axing with devastating form in the T20s, posting scores of 86no and 117no.
"I think the good thing was that we had different people step up at different times," Lanning said.
"I thought Rachael Haynes stepped in and did a great job with the side and led them well.
"Beth Mooney is going to be a great player for Australia. She’s very composed and threatened to play well as an international player during the last couple of years but hadn’t quite been able to deliver.
"Hopefully this was her breakthrough tour and she feels confident enough at international level now that she can go on and perform really well."
Having taken in the Women’s Ashes from a distance, Lanning hopes to put her new perspective to work in what looms as a big three years for Australia, featuring a World T20 (November 2018), an away Ashes (mid-2019) and a home World T20 (February 2020) among a host of bilateral home-and-away tours.
"When you’re in the middle of it and trying to win games, you get very focused on that,” she explained.
"I’ve been able to take a look at things differently. You see how different people operate and prepare and play, things I don’t usually get to see because I’m worried about winning and trying to perform myself.
"I think in the long run (the time out) will be good and hopefully now I’ve got a different perspective on things."
Lanning’s determination to look for a silver lining echoes comments made by Australia coach Matthew Mott last week, who believes the injury lay off will “light the fire” for the remainder of her career.
"We spoke about it and it could be the best thing that’s happened to her in terms of lighting the fire for the back-half of her career,” Mott told cricket.com.au.
"She’s had a chance to sit back from the game and work out what she loves about the it, and how she might do something things a little bit differently as well.
"While you never want your best player out of the team, for her development it's been opportunity to take stock and work out what is so important about the rest of her career.
"Everything has been really positive."