How the record-breaking Aussies gain an extra edge
Australia's world-conquering women are going from strength to strength, on and off the field
10 October 2019, 07:15 PM AEST
Australia’s women are taking everything before them in what’s shaping to be an unprecedented period of success.
Meg Lanning’s team is ranked No.1 in the world, have a T20 World Cup and the Ashes in its possession and on Wednesday, broke the record for most consecutive ODI wins – 18 – by a women’s team.
This is a team lucky enough to possess some of the greatest to have played the game, in a generation reaping the rewards that come with being full-time professional athletes.
And in an era where more women’s cricket is broadcast than ever before, the highlights have been splashed around the world.
But in many ways, it’s the work you don’t see that has set this group of players – who are, without exception, also elite athletes – on the path to immortality.
Outside of the technical work put into nets sessions, strength and conditioning is not only playing an enormous role in Australia’s consistency, it’s also giving them a clear edge over their rivals.
"I like to think strong athletes get in better positions," Dave Bailey, the physical performance coach who has been working with the Australian women’s cricket team since 2016, told cricket.com.au.
"It’s really hard to be able to run between the wickets well, move well laterally in the field or reach higher speeds if you don’t have a certain level of strength.
"In our case, most of our athletes who are stronger are better at getting to those positions, running between the wickets and running to the ball.
"It’s an ongoing thing for us that we keep working on, and the players are really eating it up so we’ve improved a lot in those spaces."
Cricket can be a game of centimetres. Whether it’s moving that little bit faster in the field to cut off a boundary, to get in position for a difficult catch, sneaking that quick single, generating the power required to clear the boundary more frequently or finding those extra kilometres per hour with the ball, it can – and has – made the difference between winning and losing.
Australia won the 2016 T20 World Cup semi-final off the back of Megan Schutt’s agility in the field.
Erin Burns saved the Rebel WBBL semi-final for the Sydney Sixers with her stunning dive on the boundary.
And that – combined with an abundance natural talent and the countless hours of work put into training and planning by the players, coaching staff and analysts – is part of what is helping set Australia apart.
Wicketkeeper-batter Alyssa Healy has credited the strides she’s made in her fitness for her stunning shift in form across the past two years, that’s seen her average 58.7 in ODIs and 45.23 in T20Is since the start of 2018.
For Beth Mooney, improvements in her strength and conditioning have been a key part of her journey from a player on the outskirts of the playing XI and reserve wicketkeeper behind Healy, to winning a spot in the team as a specialist batter.
"I probably wasn’t one of the fittest in the team and I had to make a change there," Mooney told cricket.com.au earlier this year.
"If you get told you're good enough to play at this level but you need to reach this benchmark or that benchmark, it’s not that hard to wake up in the morning and go for a run or go for a cycle and do a little bit extra to make sure that you do manage to keep yourself in the mix.
"In some cases, I think (that fitness) means you can bat in the subcontinent for a long period of time. I think it all helps.
"You want to be as efficient a mover as possible when you're out there, whether you're batting, bowling or fielding or keeping, so just fine-tuning that stuff really helps with the one-percenters, like running twos or running back-to-back twos or going for a couple of big efforts out in the field.
"I probably didn't know how hard to push myself in that area until I had to."
18 games. 18 months. 18 wins. This Australian ODI team really is something special #AUSvSL pic.twitter.com/MMEVUB6IRq— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) October 9, 2019
Australia are in the middle of their busiest-ever season of cricket, a demanding schedule that started with the multi-format Ashes in the United Kingdom, followed by a limited-overs tour of the West Indies.
The squad barely had time to readjust their body clocks at home before beginning the whirlwind contest against Sri Lanka, playing six games in 11 days.
Now, the players link up with their Rebel WBBL clubs, ahead of the first standalone season of the domestic 20-over competition.
Given Australia will be defending their T20 World Cup title on home soil next February and March, keeping their stars fit and on the park is priority number one for the Australian brains trust.
"That’s really important," Bailey said. "One of the things we said to the girls (earlier this year) was that once we started preparing for the Ashes, it really doesn’t stop until April.
"So it was really important that they had some rest after last season, but that they also came back in really good condition because we didn’t have time to try and get them fit.
"So it was really pleasing when the group came back in excellent condition.
"And even in our testing after the Ashes, it showed they came back in an even better place (after that series) leading into the West Indies than they had been leading into the Ashes, which is not an easy thing to do on a really busy schedule."
Bailey likes to think the current group of players makes his job an easy one.
Not every player is going to be the level of fitness-fanatic that Ellyse Perry is, but Bailey believes there’s no questioning the work ethic across the entire playing group.
Another major benefit is the shift that’s seen the players become full-time professionals over the past few years, eliminating the need for them to squeeze in their athletic commitments around other employment.
"I think I’m blessed at the moment that we’ve got a really good group," Bailey said.
"So whether some of these players were full-time or not full-time, I don’t think their work rate would change. But it certainly allows us more time with the players to see them and to test them and to train them.
"We’ve got a really nice balance now. I don’t think there are huge gaps between who does a lot (of strength and conditioning work) and who doesn’t.
"The culture that’s been led by Meg (Lanning) and Rachael (Haynes) is that you just get done what you need to get done.
"Certain players will have a liking for certain types of strength and conditioning work more than others, but it’s more about what they need to do.
"The youngsters have come in and fed on the environment, they’ve improved really quickly and our older athletes lead the way in how you prepare and how professional you can be."