“Play hard with a smile on your face”. They were the values that underpinned the Australian women’s cricket team’ success at the recent Women’s Twenty20 World Cup in the West Indies, according to captain Meg Lanning.
Lanning and her trophy-winning teammates enjoyed a rapturous public reception on Thursday at Federation Square in Melbourne, where they celebrated their win over England in last weekend’s final in Antigua.
The fortune of the Australian women’s team is in stark contrast to the men, who are heading into a Test series against India. There have been serious questions about their form, team culture and their relationship with the cricket public.
The attitude of the women’s team defies Michael Clarke’s claim that Australian cricket ‘won’t win “s–t” unless it amped up the aggro.
Lanning told The New Daily her group placed a premium on team culture and living the values they espoused.
— Direct Hit (@directhitau) November 29, 2018
“We’ve worked a lot on how we want to operate as a team on and off the field. Post the World Cup last year we had to change a few things,” she said.
“We wanted to get back to enjoying our cricket and taking the game on a bit more.”
Lanning said senior players had driven a set of standards for the team.
“It’s about being honest and enjoying what you do. They’re pretty simple words, but you actually have to bring them to life both individually and as a team,” she said.
As a team, we’ve always had a really good connection with our fans and the Australian public and it’s something we see as a really important part of what we do.
“Enjoy what you do, but be really respectful. I know the men’s team are working really hard to change that.”
The culture within elite sporting teams is something Ellyse Perry knows all about.
The Australian all-rounder was the first Australian cricketer – male or female – to play 100 Twenty20 Internationals.
They seemed nervous in the field, but there were no nerves there at the finish – Australia are four-time #WT20 champions! 🏆
Read how they did it in our match report 👇
— ICC World Twenty20 (@WorldT20) November 25, 2018
Perry has also had a career as an international footballer, having played for her country 17 times with the Matildas before committing full time to cricket.
She believes the environment of the men’s and women’s teams are the crucial element in their different cultures.
“For a lot of us, the past year or two has been the first time that [cricket] has been a full-time professional job,” Perry told The New Daily.
“We haven’t really been caught up in a bit of a bubble for the last 10 years of our lives. We’ve got a really strong connection to where we come from, to our communities and things outside of cricket.
“I think that shows through in the way that we go out and play.”
Perry believes the Australian men’s team is having the sort of tough conversations it needs to have.
“It’s no fault of anyone in particular, in terms of the men. But I think it has probably just got to the point that something was going to give and it has.
“That’s an opportunity to reconnect with the things that really matter.”
Perry is passionate about the importance of professional sportspeople staying connected to the communities that helped make them.
“It’s really important. These are the things that matter the most,” she said.
“It’s pretty easy to get wrapped up in selfish things as a professional athlete. But, at the end of the day, you’re only here because of things that many people have done for you along the way.”
Perry’s attitude is a tonic for Australian fans who have grown weary of the men’s team and its exalted status, which has produced an aloof cohort of cricketing princes.
‘It’s a pretty special privilege to be part of this World Cup campaign. We enjoy each others company and we absolutely love playing the game for Australia,” she said.
“Everyone has a strong mandate to be authentic, be themselves on and off the pitch, and by doing that it has created an atmosphere where people really engage with us.
“They know that what they’re seeing is a true reflection of who we really are.”
Keeping it real and winning. Now that is the stuff of champions.