Lanning loving life in the slightly slower lane

Meg Lanning is focused on WNCL success with Victoria after stepping away from the international game

On Saturday, Meg Lanning will return to the venue where her senior cricket journey began to formally bid farewell to a career still not officially finished.

Lanning, who announced her retirement from all formats of the international game earlier this summer, will be honoured with a celebratory lap of Adelaide Oval prior to the Women's CommBank ODI Series opener between Australia and West Indies alongside fellow retiree Rachael Haynes.

But while Haynes has slipped seamlessly into television commentary as well as a new role as Head of Sydney Sixers' BBL and WBBL outfits after calling time on her playing days in 2022, Lanning remains a key member of batting line-ups for Victoria (WNCL), Melbourne Stars (WBBL) and Delhi Capitals (India's WPL).

Lanning looking forward to Adelaide Oval celebration alongside Haynes

And the former Australia skipper, who was part of seven World Cup triumphs as well as a Commonwealth Games gold medallist, has indicated the one nagging omission from an extraordinary playing resume may yet see her continue in domestic ranks beyond this summer.

"I've never won a WNCL title with Victoria, which is something I'd love to do at some stage," Lanning told today, having helped Victoria into third place on the WNCL ladder with back-to-back wins over South Australia Scorpions in Adelaide this week.

"I haven't thought too far ahead, past this season.

"But I love playing for Victoria and always have, so if I can be useful to the group on and off the field then maybe I'll keep going."

Lanning admits being afforded a public send-off while still a dominant player on the domestic scene (she leads the 2023-24 WNCL averages with 424 runs at 106) is slightly surreal, she is grateful to say thank you and goodbye to fans and former teammates after her shock retirement announcement at season's start.

She is not the first long-serving Australia skipper to continue turning out in State cricket after drawing stumps on their international tenure, with Allan Border (Queensland) and Ricky Ponting (Tasmania) returning to realise their respective long-held dreams of Sheffield Shield glory.

However, both were on the cusp of turning 40 and clearly in the twilight of their fabled careers at that time whereas Lanning turns 32 next month and clearly remains at the peak of her powers.

The key to her international retirement decision is clearly illustrated by a couple of vignettes from this week's South Australia sojourn.

The first came upon visiting Adelaide Oval for last Monday's WNCL win (in which she was named player of the match for her unbeaten 82 off as many balls) over SA and the realisation it was half a lifetime since she debuted for Victoria at the same venue aged just 16, in December 2008.

Lanning powers Vics home with unbeaten 82

Lanning can't help but laugh as she thinks aloud "that's more than 15 years ago …", and recounts how she was responsible for the run out of batting partner Emma Inglis and contributed little with the bat (three off 18 balls batting at six) as Victoria claimed the win.

Even more instructive was the sight of Australia's most-capped women's cricket skipper stationed on the mid-wicket boundary during last Wednesday's second game against the Scorpions, in front of a scattering of spectators on the hill at Karen Rolton Oval with whom Lanning casually chatted between deliveries.

Lanning's over-the-fence banter and symbolic physical detachment from the battle ongoing in the middle was as far removed from the scrutiny and burden of international cricket as the bucolic parklands venue is from the MCG, where she led Australia to a famous 2020 World Cup win before a record crowd of 86,174.

Tearful Lanning says goodbye, reflects on ‘special’ memories

"I've enjoyed just rocking up to play and not thinking too much about it," Lanning says of her new cricket life in the comparatively slower lane.

"For as long as I can remember, every game I played had a lot of pressure and expectation, even when you'd go back to state cricket as an Australian player you feel the pressure to perform and make sure you're using that time.

"I loved every moment of it, but I put everything into my career and got to the point where I didn't have too much energy to give, and the commitment levels required to play within that Australian team are significant.

"I guess I didn't really have that any more, so stepping away and having a bit more time to focus on other things has been nice.

"Now I can be a little bit more relaxed and focus on other players as well, and try and help them as much as I can which is what I've really enjoyed with the Victorian team.

"We've got quite a few young girls in there and it's been nice to think about it from their perspective a little bit, and also talk about some of the experiences I've had.

"Then I can just go out there and bat when my turn comes."

Lanning masterclass guides Vics to big win with unbeaten 80

But as much as she claims to have scaled back her level of on-field engagement to that of mere mortal player, Lanning concedes she can't help but occasionally cast a captain's eye over proceedings and share her views with current Victoria skipper Sophie Molineux when asked.

Plus, as Lanning admits with a laugh when it's pointed out she still instigates the occasional subtle field change while her captain is otherwise engaged, on a few occasions when she's not directly consulted.

"I've been enjoying my time out on the boundary," she said.

"I think it's my choice, but Soph (Molineux) might be sending me out there to get me away from talking to her."

Molineux's willingness to tap into the ex-Australia skipper's vast experience and shrewd insights bears similarities to the relationship Lanning herself developed with Haynes, who opened the batting for Victoria in Lanning's debut match 15 summers ago.

Teenage Lanning lashes England for maiden ODI ton

It's one of the reasons Lanning is delighted to share Saturday's honour lap with her former national vice-captain, with another being the opportunity it provides for both of them to diffuse the spotlight they habitually avoid.

"She was a very integral part of our team for a long time and certainly helped me a lot," Lanning said of Haynes.

"I wouldn't have been the leader, or as successful as I was, without her there with me, filling the gaps that I missed.

"She's a special part of my career on and off the field, so to be able to celebrate with her on the weekend is something I'm really looking forward to."

Not that Lanning, when she finally does draw the curtain on her influential playing career, plans to follow her long-time Australia teammate into the commentary box.

While Lanning is not afraid to air her astute observations on the game – notably today claiming international authorities need to either increase the number of Tests played on the women's calendar to level that playing field, or abandon the red-ball format altogether – she wants to explore the world beyond cricket.

As a self-confessed lover of sport, Lanning sees her post-playing professional life taking her into different codes where she can apply her experiences at elite level in a vastly changed contexts, as well as to glean insights from those unfamiliar environments.

But even if her skills become transferable, her heart will always remain with the game that has filled her entire adult life to date.

"I think I'll always have a touch point with cricket," she said today.

"It's been such a big part of my life and I do love the game, so I think there will be an element of it in whatever I do.

"But I would certainly like to escape the cricket bubble for a little bit, and get out and see some different sports.

"To see how they operate and get some experience there, I think that would be exciting though what exactly that will be, I'm not sure.

"I don't have any specific plans, I'm just going with the flow a little bit and try out a few different things.

"I think I'll end up coming back to cricket in some capacity, but I'd like to get out of it for a little bit and experience life beyond the cricket bubble because it's all-consuming and I've done that for a long period of time.

"So something different would be nice."

Women's CommBank T20I Series v South Africa

First T20: Australia won by eight wickets

Second T20: South Africa won by six wickets

January 30: Australia win by five wickets

Women's CommBank ODI Series v South Africa

February 3: First ODI, Adelaide Oval, 2.10pm

February 7: Second ODI, North Sydney Oval, 2.40pm

February 10: Third ODI, North Sydney Oval, 2.40pm

Australia squad: Alyssa Healy (c), Darcie Brown, Heather Graham, Ashleigh Gardner, Kim Garth, Grace Harris*, Jess Jonassen, Alana King**, Phoebe Litchfield, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Georgia Wareham *T20s only | **ODIs only

South Africa squad (T20Is & ODIs): Laura Wolvaardt (c), Anneke Bosch, Tazmin Brits, Nadine de Klerk, Mieke de Ridder (wk), Ayanda Hlubi, Sinalo Jafta (wk), Marizanne Kapp, Ayabonga Khaka, Masabata Klaas, Suné Luus, Eliz-Mari Marx, Nonkululeko Mlaba, Chloe Tryon, Delmi Tucker 

Women's CommBank Test Match v South Africa

February 15-18: Only Test, WACA Ground, Perth 11.00am