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Healy, Gardner, McGrath: who could be Australia's next captain?

If the decision needs to be made, it could come down to how short or long term the selectors want to look at

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
Ash Gardner would be a long-term option as Australia captain  •  ICC via Getty Images

Ash Gardner would be a long-term option as Australia captain  •  ICC via Getty Images

With Meg Lanning's break from the game continuing and any potential comeback unclear, there is an increasing chance that Australia will need a new captain - at least in the short-term, or maybe even permanently - later this year. Here is a look at some of the names that could come into consideration.
Alyssa Healy
Healy may be one of the next players of this great Australian team to bring an end to her career, but she would perhaps be a shorter-term option to take the captaincy if there was a thought that Lanning could return or if the selectors just want to get through the T20 World Cup and the Ashes next year.
"She's probably going to hate me saying this, but I think it would be [an easy transition]," Rachael Haynes said when she had announced her retirement. "She's obviously done a little bit of an apprenticeship in state cricket. I think they've got lots of different options they can choose from. It probably just comes down to what direction they want to head in - whether there thinking short or long term."
Beth Mooney
A fulcrum of the batting across all three formats, Mooney is a senior player, and at 28, should have a significant number of years left in her international career. When she was just 20, Mooney captained Queensland to the T20 Cup title - the precursor to the WBBL - in 2014.
Two years ago, when the Brisbane Heat captaincy needed filling following Kirby Short's retirement, Mooney said the timing wasn't quite right for her. She has since moved to Perth Scorchers and Western Australia for her domestic cricket, but does not captain either side. The other factor for Mooney is that she could follow Healy as the team's wicketkeeper which, while certainly not meaning captaincy has to be be off the table, would add to the workload.
Ash Gardner
It very much feels like Gardner is a captain in the making; it might just be a question of whether this cycle - if it emerges - comes at the right time for the 25-year-old. Her leadership credentials already stand out - particularly her role in promoting Indigenous culture and history. As a 20-year-old, Gardner captained the Aboriginal squad to England to mark the 150th anniversary of 1868 tour.
"I really love being a leader and I love leading in whatever team I can," she had told in 2021. "That's something that I think I've learned later in life; those things do come naturally as well the more mature you get and the older that you get in certain squads. But it's something that I've obviously tried to do given the opportunity to captain teams. That's something I really aspire to do later in my career as well."
Tahlia McGrath
After a stunning return to international cricket where she has become one of the leading players in the world, McGrath shapes as another long-term option for the captaincy. She is a key player across all formats, and captains Adelaide Strikers in the WBBL. Like a few in the current Australia set-up, she has worked with Belinda Clark, the former Australia captain, on leadership.
"I would have never seen myself as a leader, and it was never something that I thought about," she had told ESPNcricinfo ahead of the ODI World Cup this year. "Then a few opportunities popped up through some [South Australia] Scorpions stuff and Australia A. [That] caught me by surprise, and I found enjoyment from it - especially leading the Strikers last year was an experienced I absolutely loved."
Jess Jonassen
Another senior player in the current set-up, Jonassen is someone Lanning has leant heavily on on the field over the years, and is known to have a calm presence under pressure. Having taken over from Short, Jonassen currently captains Queensland and Brisbane Heat, and has previously cited the composure of her former team-mate.
"That's something that I'd like to take from her - just this element of calmness, regardless of the situation…just being able to do [something] that gives around you a little more confidence, and helps keep them calm as well," she had said in 2020. "I never will be - and never have been - someone that enjoys telling people what to do; I'd rather show them the way or walk with them along the way."
Megan Schutt
Could there be two fast-bowling captains in the Australian game? Schutt was named captain of South Australia as a 25-year-old and has continued to do the role when available. She is a key part of Australia's ODI and T20I sides but was left out of last year's Ashes Test, though the selectors said that was with an eye on the World Cup.
At 29, there should still be a good amount of time left at international level, depending on how long Schutt wants to play for. When she was first appointed at South Australia, Schutt was asked what sort of captain she would be. "Firm but fair. I like to get things done and I'm pretty blunt sometimes about how I want to do it, but at the same time I like to think I'm very fair."
Sophie Molineux
Molineux is not currently in the Australia team, having picked up an injury last season before losing her central contract in April, but the 24-year-old is highly regarded as a developing leader. She led Melbourne Renegades to their first WBBL final last season and took over the Victoria captaincy when Lanning stepped down earlier this year. Like McGrath, she has worked closely with Clark.
"It's got me thinking about different things going into the season," she had told last year. "There's so many different parts to captaincy I never really thought about. I'm learning a lot. BC is really big on different ways of communicating, and we've been going through different situations and role-playing different scenarios that could play out. And that's really valuable."

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo