Top candidates to replace Lanning as selectors face big call

We take a look at the potential candidates as Australia search for a new full-time women's captain for the first time in almost 10 years

'She's done it all': Teammates hail unflappable Lanning

For the first time in almost a decade, Australia are searching for a new full-time women's captain.

Meg Lanning's retirement from international cricket this week has left selectors with a big call to make ahead of next month's tour to India.

Lanning, who replaced Jodie Purves (nee Fields) as Australian captain in 2014, leaves enormous shoes to fill.

She led her country to five World Cup wins, Commonwealth Games gold and boasted a record 80 per cent winning record as captain.

The 31-year-old was also, remarkably, victorious in her final 35 matches as captain, a run that stretched back to October 2021.

Time is also of the essence: Australia's next engagement is just over a month away, a multi-format tour of India that includes a Test, three ODIs and three T20Is.

The squad for that tour is expected to be announced in the next week.

That will be followed by another multi-format contest, against South Africa at home starting in late January, before a white-ball trip to Bangladesh in March.

There is nothing currently pencilled into the schedule between that tour and the 2024 T20 World Cup, also to be staged in Bangladesh, next September-October.

The women's cricket landscape is dramatically different to when Lanning was appointed Australian captain.

Players are now fully professional, well paid, and the schedule is busier than ever.

The role of skipper comes with greater profile: interest, scrutiny, social media, sponsors and broadcast responsibilities are more encompassing than ever before.

Lanning was thrust into the job with no real prior experience as a captain in any age group, but the same is unlikely to be true of her successor.

Australia have made a concerted effort to nurture the next generation of leaders in recent years, with players identified of captaincy potential – either at state or national level, and both on and off the field – taking part in a leadership program where they received mentoring from Australia legend Belinda Clark.

There are a host of core Australian squad members with experience captaining state and WBBL teams. Here are a few of the potential candidates to replace Lanning.

Alyssa Healy 

Healy is Australia's vice-captain and stood in for Lanning when she missed series against India, England, Ireland and West Indies across the last 12 months.

She is the most obvious candidate – and she's said she wants the job – but there are a few factors that might come into consideration.

Healy has stood in for Lanning numerous times over the past 18 months // Getty

The most immediate concern is her availability and whether she will have fully recovered from her dog bite injury by day one of the Test on December 21.

Ultimately though, the most important consideration is the approach the selectors want to take with the captaincy over the medium-to-long term.

Healy is 33 and may only play at the international level for another couple of years. She also already carries a heavy load as an opening batter and wicketkeeper.

On the other hand, she's been doing the job for much of the last 12 months and backing her in would provide continuity leading into a T20 World Cup year.

Tahlia McGrath

McGrath has served as vice-captain under Healy and stepped in to cover for her senior teammate on a couple of occasions over the last year.

If selectors are wanting to take a longer-term view, and appoint a player who potentially could be in the role for at least the next five years, they could look to 28-year-old McGrath.

McGrath led Adelaide Strikers to their first WBBL title last season // Getty

She has plenty of captaincy experience under her belt – she is in her third season as Adelaide Strikers skipper and led them to their first WBBL title last season.

Her confidence has also flourished since she was part of Clark's leadership mentoring program.

The full-time captaincy would be a lot to manage given McGrath's role as an allrounder – but there are few specialists of any variety in this Australian set-up.

Ashleigh Gardner

Gardner has been talked about as a potential future Australian captain for years.

She has skippered Aboriginal XIs, the Governor-General's XI and is currently serving as Sydney Sixers vice-captain under Ellyse Perry.

The 26-year-old does not have the same experience under her belt as Healy or McGrath, but is a leader within the Australian group even without holding an official title.

She has also been a beneficiary of Clark's mentoring.

Phoebe Litchfield

It is unlikely the 20-year-old, who is in her rookie year in the Australian squad, will be given the top job – not yet, at least.

But she is worth including in this list, if only for the comparisons to Lanning.

Litchfield is a batter of prodigious talent who is quickly making a name for herself at international level.

She is mature beyond her years, has an excellent cricketing brain and screams leadership potential, although she has never captained an elite senior side.

Lanning was 21, in the early days of her own Australian career and had scant captaincy experience when she was appointed in 2014 but selectors saw something in the Victorian and backed her in to lead the team for a decade.

Record-breaking Litchfield belts equal-fastest fifty

However, the game has dramatically evolved throughout that period and, as noted above, the role of Australian captain comes with greater profile, interest, scrutiny, social media, sponsors and broadcast responsibilities than when Lanning was handed the reins. 

Lanning was able to grow into those responsibilities, but with the job as it is now, it seems far less likely that call would be repeated with Litchfield. That doesn't mean the batting sensation from Orange won't eventually have that 'C' beside her name.

Ellyse Perry

Perry has enormous captaincy experience having led the Sydney Sixers for all nine WBBL seasons.

However she, like Healy, is 33 years old and given Healy was handed the vice-captaincy a year ago, it seems unlikely the allrounder would get the nod for the full-time job ahead of the 'keeper-batter.

Jess Jonassen

She is another member of the 30-plus group in Australia's ranks, having recently turned 31. Another beneficiary of Clark's mentoring program, Jonassen has vast experience captaining both Queensland and Brisbane Heat.

Beth Mooney

Mooney is one of the best batters in the world and a key cog in every Australian XI. However, the 29-year-old has little captaincy experience, and has not led a WBBL or WNCL team. She was appointed captain of Gujarat Giants in the Women's Premier League earlier this year but her tenure lasted one game when she was ruled out of the tournament with a calf injury.

Australia's multi-format tour of India

December 21-24: Test match, Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai

December 28: First ODI, Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai

December 30: Second ODI, Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai

January 2: Third ODI, Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai

January 5: First T20I, DY Patil Stadium, Navi Mumbai

January 7: Second T20I, DY Patil Stadium, Navi Mumbai

January 9: Third T20I, DY Patil Stadium, Navi Mumbai