Meg Lanning tried to rekindle the fire for international cricket, but finally admitted to herself it was time for a new phase of life
'It's time': Lanning admits she's 'got nothing left to give'
Slowly at first, and then all at once. Looking back, Meg Lanning can see her decision, announced on Thursday, to walk away from international cricket was a slow-burn that built up across the past 18 months.
But it was only in recent weeks, after trying – and ultimately failing – to refuel the fire, that the 31-year-old realised she had exhausted the supply.
After 13 years of giving her all to her country, there was nothing left to give, and nothing left for her to achieve, at the highest level.
"Realistically, it's something I've been thinking about for a while," an emotional Lanning, who broke down in tears while thanking her close-knit family for their support, told reporters outside the MCG today.
"I've come to the realisation that I've probably been trying to convince myself a little bit over the last 18 months why I should keep playing and what it is that I want to achieve.
"I'm not someone who can do things half in, half out (and) I've battled away a little bit trying to work all that out.
"But it became quite clear, particularly in the last couple of days, that this was the right call and what I'm ready for ... it's time.
"And since I've made the decision, I've felt a little bit relieved to have made a call and be a little bit clearer on what the next little bit looks like."
Lanning took a six-month break from cricket in the second half of last year, looking to refresh and experience life outside the 'cricket bubble'.
She returned to the game in January hopeful that sabbatical would extend her international career by several years, but during a second stint away from the national side this year, due to undisclosed medical issues, Lanning started to realise she had nothing left to give.
"I tried to make it work, I took some time to step away a little bit and be outside the cricket bubble ... and that's given me the opportunity to think about what else is out there," she said.
"(Cricket's) all I've ever known really for 13 years, and I've given everything to being as good as I can to help the team win.
"Now it's time to focus on myself and to go and see what else is out there. And what that is, I'm not sure."
Lanning won everything there was to win across 13 years in the green and gold, including seven World Cups, lifting five of them as captain, Ashes series both at home and away, and even Commonwealth Games gold.
She led her country for the best part of a decade and scored more runs than any Australian woman before her.
For the fiercely competitive Victorian, the rush of stepping up in the biggest moments and on the biggest stages remains – it's just no longer enough.
"The competitive side in me will always be there – I always looked forward to big tournaments and big games," Lanning said.
"I felt like that really brought the best out of me and I've really prided myself on holding my nerve under pressure and being able to perform when the team needed me.
"The nerves and unique feeling around big games and World Cups ... you feel sick heading in and nervous but then when you get out there, that's what you play for and that's why you want to do it.
"I love that challenge and that's probably still there it's just everything else that comes with it which is the bit that I've got nothing left to give."
Lanning said she was not sure what is next, and at the moment, the path to the commentary box trod by many an Australian captain before her holds no appeal.
Instead, the Victorian said she was looking forward to the chance to choose her own adventure without the strict scheduling that comes with being an international cricketer.
She will continue playing at domestic level for the Melbourne Stars and Victoria, while she has also been retained by Women's Premier League team Delhi Capitals for the 2024 season.
"I certainly haven't got anything worked out ... but now I've got the freedom to go and explore different things and see what pans out," Lanning said.
"(I'm feeling) excitement, it's scary, too.
"There's so much structure in cricket, you know where to be all the time, your weeks are planned and you don't really make a lot of decisions for yourself.
"But over the last 18 months, I've actually experienced that stepping back and getting out of that bubble a little bit … so I don't think it's as big a jump as what it might seem, I've probably already been there for a little while."
Between all the World Cup wins, Ashes triumphs and personal milestones, Lanning's career timeline is littered with memorable moments.
Asked which stood out as her favourite, she pointed to the golden period of world domination that sprung from the disappointment of Australia's shock 2017 ODI World Cup semi-final exit.
After missing out at both the 2016 and 2017 ICC tournaments, Lanning's Australians would win the 2018, 2020 and 2023 T20 World Cups, the 2022 ODI World Cup and Commonwealth Games Gold.
They set a new world record of 26 consecutive one-day international wins and, between the start of 2018 and the recent Ashes in England, did not lose a single bilateral series.
"We learned so much, I learned so much (from that loss) and we probably wouldn't have had the success that we had if that moment hadn't happened," Lanning said of the 2017 semi-final defeat to India.
"So while it was awful at the time, it was a really good reality check and the successful five years post that – I've been involved in a lot of teams and the way we were able to just come together and be on the same page, on and off the field, it was a bit of magic coming together.
"I've never experienced that before or after in terms of just everything coming together.
"Myself, Rach (Haynes), and (Matthew Mott) were the leaders of that, but the group really stood up through that period and I'm really proud of how we responded to that.
"Which all sort of culminated in a couple of things but that 2020 T20 World Cup here in Australia, that final, is certainly something I won't forget."
The little cricket-loving girl that grew up to win seven World Cups, score 17 international centuries and captain our team on 182 occasions in an era of unprecedented dominance.— Australian Women's Cricket Team 🏏 (@AusWomenCricket) November 8, 2023
A privilege to witness. Enjoy the next chapter, Meg! ❤️ pic.twitter.com/a1YONzncUM