Before shoulder surgery ended Meg Lanning’s hopes of playing in the 2017-18 summer, the Victorian was already the world’s No.1 ranked ODI batter, her country’s youngest captain, holder of the fastest one-day century by an Australian and the leading century-maker in women’s ODIs.
Now, Australia coach Matthew Mott expects her enforced period on the sidelines to only “light the fire” for the remainder of the 25-year-old’s international career.
Lanning has started hitting the ball again since going under the knife in August and is on track to return to action when Australia tour India in March next year.
The injury forced her to sit out Australia’s successful Commonwealth Bank Women’s Ashes campaign and the entirety of the Rebel WBBL and Women’s National Cricket League seasons.
It also severely disrupted her at the Women’s World Cup in the UK in July-August, forcing her to miss two group matches and to play with the shoulder heavily strapped.
Lanning often produces her best when she’s a little bit angry.
So when she does return to the crease next year, Mott is expecting the frustration and disappointment of a disrupted - and ultimately unsuccessful - World Cup campaign, combined with being forced to sit on the sidelines throughout the Women’s Ashes, to propel Lanning to new heights.
"We spoke about it and it could be the best thing that’s happened to her in terms of lighting the fire for the back-half of her career,” Mott told cricket.com.au.
"She’s had a chance to sit back from the game and work out what she loves about the it, and how she might do something things a little bit differently as well.
"While you never want your best player out of the team, for her development it's been opportunity to take stock and work out what is so important about the rest of her career.
"Everything has been really positive."
The chance to sit back and take stock is a change for Lanning, who made her Victorian debut aged 16 before earning her first Australia cap two years later, in December 2010.
She captained Australia for the first time aged just 21 years in January 2014, and took on the job full-time less than six months later.
Mott is hopeful of regaining the services of his best batter for the subcontinent tour, where Australia will play three ODIs against India – the team who knocked the Southern Stars out of last year’s Women’s World Cup in the UK – and a series of T20s.
But there’s no chance Lanning will return before her shoulder is 100 per cent ready, with Australia not willing to risk their skipper less than one year out from a World T20 in the Caribbean.
"Things are looking pretty good, she’s meeting her milestones at the moment,” Mott said.
"I’ve had a couple of hits with her up in Brisbane and if you look at that in isolation, she almost looks ready to play.
"But there’s a lot of things she has to get on top of before then. She’s throwing now, she’s getting into that and its improving but we want her shoulder to be 100 per cent before she comes back.
"It’s looking positive and if she’s right, she’ll go (to India) but if she’s not she’ll have to sit out for a bit longer."
If Lanning doesn’t return for the India tour, Australia’s next outing is likely to be against Pakistan later in 2018, while she could also opt to play in the England Super League for extra game time.
"She's invested a lot of time in getting it right,” Mott said. “Surgery is not something you want to do over and over again. We’ve got a great physio and support network and they’re very keen to make sure we get this right, we get it strong and she's got the durability to last the rest of her career.
"There’ll be no rushing in terms of rushing back, she’s incredibly keen to play and she’s doing everything in her powers to get back."
Lanning’s return will result in some very difficult calls for the national selectors, with one of the members of Australia’s top six set to be squeezed out.
"They’ll be some really tough decisions,” Mott said. “That’s a problem for great teams and we aspire to be a great team.”
"Throwing her back into the mix is certainly fantastic for our group."