From one inspirational leader to another, read Belinda Clark's tribute on the Australia women's team's most successful skipper
'Through it all, Meg remained true to herself': Clark
"The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential ... these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence." Confucius
This quote is most apt when thinking about the cricket career of Meg Lanning.
I first encountered Meg Lanning in her primary school days in New South Wales. Even then, it was clear she had talent. But talent alone doesn't guarantee sporting excellence. It's the combination of skill and will and Meg had both.
It's amazing to look back at that group of super stars that came through the NSW Primary School Team pathway. Meg, along with Ellyse Perry and Alyssa Healy all played in that NSW PSSA Team together and we've seen them go on to dominate on the world stage.
After a family move to Victoria, she continued her journey through the Victorian pathway and then a sliding doors moment set her on a path of leadership.
Meg was appointed as the stand in captain of the Australian team as a 21-year-old when Jodie Fields suffered a serious injury. This appointment turned into being appointed as the captain several months later. These decisions are difficult ones as they shape the direction of the team and the Australian selectors need to be given credit for their foresight, to take the chance on the young Victorian.
Her state captain at the time, Kelly Applebee, did the team thing and stepped aside so Meg could also lead Victoria when it became clear that Meg was to become the Australian Cricket captain. They could see the potential and wanted Meg to have a long tenure at the helm of the national team. By taking a chance on a young Meg, it meant she was able to grow into the role and develop her confidence.
I'm a firm believer that consistency is a massive part of success. If you've got a strong connection and consistency between captain, coach and playing group, that really does set you up well to create a period of domination. For seven of her years at the helm, Meg worked with Matthew Mott and was supported brilliantly by what would become a strong contingent of player leaders that included Rachael Haynes, Alex Blackwell and Alyssa Healy. The selectors' plan paid off in spades.
Captaining the team today is worlds apart from captaining the team when I did, but there are still core elements that remain the same. First and foremost, you need to play well. You've got to have pride in your performance and really make sure that you prepare well, which is often difficult when you start to get pulled in different directions.
For Meg, it would've been difficult as a young leader trying to get a handle on her own game, at the same time as trying to work with the coaching staff to extract the best out of the players.
But I think in Meg's case, her famous single-mindedness and determined, competitive instincts allowed her to have the competence to manage those dynamics at such a young age.
The role also would've changed a lot in the nine years that Meg spent as captain. The women's game was going through a period of immense change, and it's often the captain that feels the brunt of that evolution. I think Meg would've absolutely felt that.
There's so much more profile, interest, scrutiny, social media, sponsors, broadcast. It's full on!
But throughout it all, Meg remained true to herself and navigated it in her own way. She worked hard on her own leadership to stay in front of the evolution of the game both as a player and as a leader of a group that was wanting to achieve great things.
Meg has always been extremely practical, and she never wasted her words. What you see is what you get. I loved her no-nonsense approach to the leadership job, and I think all her teammates will have benefited and learned from that. We know Meg's teammates will talk very fondly about her on-field feats, but they'll also talk about Meg off the field, the sense of humour and ability to not be pushed off course by things that others would have been distracted by.
I think over time, Meg relaxed into the role, and learned she didn't have to do everything herself; if she leveraged the people around her, she would get much better outcomes.
I think Meg's greatest achievement as captain was the way in which she managed to deal with the disappointment of the 2017 ODI World Cup defeat and use that to fuel a period of remarkable domination.
Meg, Rachael and Matthew were able to galvanise the whole group to move forward with a clear intent. They were clear on how they wanted to play and what impact they wanted to have. They simply tried to be better every day. Every single player bought into that, and the results were incredible.
At the core, I think Meg's lasting legacy will be the way she played the game, the remarkable performances under pressure and the team results. I'll really miss seeing Meg walking out in the Australian kit and plying her trade. When the team needed someone to stand up, so often it was Meg. It's great we will still all be able to enjoy her batting expertise at domestic level.
So on one hand we celebrate Meg's outstanding performances and broader contribution to the game and on the other hand we know the next international challenge rolls around. We will all be watching closely and supporting the Australian team that will face the might of India on their home soil in December. A bit of Meg Lanning's will to win, desire to succeed, and urge to reach her full potential will live on in each of her teammates. Well played Meg.