Beth Mooney: 'No situation gives me stress when I'm batting because I feel like I can control the game'

The pressure-specialist batter talks about how she - and Australia - gets going when the going gets tough

The biggest change in Australia since 2017? "The ability to problem-solve as well as adapt when we're under fire"  •  Mark Evans/Getty Images

The biggest change in Australia since 2017? "The ability to problem-solve as well as adapt when we're under fire"  •  Mark Evans/Getty Images

Beth Mooney was part of the Australia side left shell-shocked by their exit from the 2017 ODI World Cup, and has since been a central figure in a team that has taken the format to new heights. Ahead of this year's World Cup in New Zealand she spoke about lessons from the past, her development as a batter and the challenge ahead.
What does the Australian team feel like now compared to the 2017 World Cup side?
It was very different. Not in a negative way or anything - it was just there were some people that had been around for a really long time and had done things in a particular way and perhaps we didn't really adapt quickly enough to situations that were thrown at us. Obviously it's well documented about Harmanpreet [Kaur] tearing us apart and Chamari [Athapaththu] in the round game, so we didn't know how to adjust as quickly as we could. You look at our team now and, especially in the last six months, it just seems like any situation that's thrown at us, we've always got an answer. Whether it's Meg [Lanning] out there making decisions as the captain - she's done an exceptional job in the last two years - or batters trying to come from behind and win a game. It's been an unbelievable turnaround for this group. That's probably the biggest change I've seen - the ability to problem-solve as well as adapt when we're under fire a bit.
That 2017 semi-final is often cited as a turning point for Australia. Was there a moment in the field where you thought it was getting out of control and since then, when games have got tight and you've been under pressure, have you recalled what was learnt?
Certainly there were moments where Harmanpreet was just hitting it over the boundary with ease where I thought, geez, this could be a big innings. It was probably only about half an hour before that I thought, this is good, we won't be chasing that much and myself and Bolts [Nicole Bolton] can get us off to a good start. The game obviously took a pretty dramatic turn towards the back end of our bowling innings, when she was playing out of her skin and playing an unbelievable one-day knock.
There's been plenty of times since then we've been put under the pump. I look back to that T20 World Cup when we played New Zealand and we had to win that game to make the semi-final. We were under a lot of pressure defending a pretty mediocre total and Sophie Devine was still out there, who can do what Harmanpreet can do. We had better plans to adjust and a few more options that we believed that could work.
The semi-final at the T20 World Cup is another example. DK [Delissa Kimmince] coming on there in the 11th over out of 13 and going for five runs. That was probably the difference.
How soon did the conversations start after that loss to India in 2017?
It was a pretty sombre dressing room. People were hurting. That wasn't the story we wanted to tell for that team. We essentially had an extra day in England that we didn't want. We wanted to get out of there pretty quickly and then we basically disappeared for a couple of months in the winter in Australia. The next time we got back together was just before the Ashes, in October 2017.
Pete Clark, our psych, and Motty [head coach Matthew Mott] decided to replay some of the highlights of India winning in this dark room at the National Cricket Centre in Albion. A lot of us spoke about how it felt immediately afterwards. There were a lot of people who felt embarrassed, a lot of people who were disappointed. A lot of people were angry. A lot of people who felt a certain amount of shame, as well, for that result. But it all just allowed us to realise that we were all feeling similar things and we all knew what needed to change. We made a commitment to change in that moment.
Certainly it is a confronting thing to do when you're trying to park something that is so fresh in your memory. Then you see it on the big screen in front of you and talk about how it makes you feel. For us it was just about watching it all over again and making sure we could let it go and commit to something completely different to what we delivered that day.
Has it felt like a long time to get a chance to make amends?
Yeah, it has been a long wait. Even during the [2021-22] Ashes, there was a lot of anxiety about catching Covid in Melbourne and Canberra and not being able to get on the plane and missing the opportunity to rectify some things that went wrong in the last one. So it felt like a long time.
There's a lot of things that we've achieved in that time that people probably didn't expect us to, but certainly within our group it's very different. I think we've got a good balance of people who were a little bit scarred from that last World Cup and some people that have no idea what it feels like to bomb out of a World Cup like that.
One of the things you've achieved since then is the 26-match winning streak in ODIs. Did you realise what you were doing as it was happening? "This is No. 20, 21" etc?
We didn't really talk about it until we were in New Zealand this time last year and there was a lot in the media about going past Ricky Ponting's team's record in ODI cricket. Our whole mindset after the 2017 World Cup was making sure that we played each game in isolation. We would win an ODI series and be 2-0 up, then lose the third game and that sort of leaves a bit of a bitter taste in your mouth.
That was essentially how we ended up getting to so many ODIs wins because we didn't want to ruin the vibe that we'd created in making sure that we put the nail in the coffin, so to speak, on tours.
You've played a couple of innings that have defined matches this season - the century in Mackay and 73 in Canberra - both from tough positions. Is that something you pride yourself on, being at your best in the most challenging situations?
You could say it's easy to go out there and score runs when your life is going easy outside of cricket, when the wicket is a batting paradise and it's one of those days where things feel like you can do no wrong, but the innings you remember as a batter are the ones that you have to really grind out. Being able to get the team into a position to win a game that people think we can lose, I really pride myself on.
Bringing people along with me as well. Tahlia [McGrath] has been doing a great job and found herself out there with me a couple of times when we've been under the pump. Just having that belief within the dressing room and within myself that you know nothing's ever too far gone for us to come back, so if I can hang on and get the team into a better position than when I walked out there, then I'm doing the job that they expect of me and I expect of myself.
On the run-chase scenario: what's your mindset when you are in a position like that? And is it something you found has come naturally or have you developed it over the years?
It's been more about just calmness at the crease, whether I'm opening in WBBL or batting in the middle order in one-day international cricket. No situation really gives me any level of stress when I'm out there because I feel like I can control the game a little bit.
This group of coaching staff and Meg and Rach [Haynes], they value the fact I understand the situation and what's required. I probably initially didn't think that I was very good at that. But over the last couple of years I've got a little bit more data to suggest that I'm doing something right in judging what's in front of me.
I think it's just this quiet calmness and quiet confidence about the process that I go through when I'm batting, and making sure that I stick to that as often as possible. The realisation that no game is ever really too far gone if you don't believe it is so.
Certainly that game in Mackay, I probably didn't look at the scoreboard for about 15 overs of it, and when I did, we needed about 180 off 150 balls. I thought, "Actually that's not too bad." Once I work things out like that, dumb it down a little bit and make it sound a little less scary in my own mind, it makes my life a bit easier.
Has the amount of T20 cricket you've played - both individually and as teams - broadened the mind about what is possible in the 50-over game?
Definitely. That game [in Mackay] is a classic example. We were chasing eight or nine an over for the last 15-20 overs, which five years ago you were probably never going to chase down, but given the pressure situations you find yourself in in T20 cricket, sometimes needing ten an over in the last five overs, it's a totally gettable number. The evolution of T20 cricket will find its way into women's one-day cricket and we'll see we'll see a lot more games like in Mackay that day.
Was there someone growing up that you modelled yourself on as a batter and thought, "I'd like to play like that"?
I had a couple. I had lunch with him a few weeks ago, before the first Ashes Test in Brisbane, and told the story. I think he got a bit embarrassed but I used to love watching Mike Hussey bat in Test cricket. Just the determination and grit - he seemed to always find a way to score runs. He had to do it the hard way as well. It took him a long time to debut for Australia, but once he got there, he never let anyone have a sniff at the spot he had in the side. So I thoroughly enjoyed watching him play, as well as Adam Gilchrist, who I have a bit of correspondence with. It's kind of nice to think that two blokes I watched and admired growing up, I can send them a text and check in and ask questions. I probably tried to model my cover drive a little bit on Mike's.
Is it a nice thought, with the women's game much more visible now, that there is a generation of young children coming through who will want to bat like Beth Mooney?
It's certainly a bit of a surreal moment when kids say that. Usually my response is, "You can do better than wanting to bat like me, surely!" Which I think they get a little bit offended about. While I do shy away from that public nature of things, it is a real sign of what's changed in the world. Some girls might want to say they bat like me, and that's amazing. But the thing that really stands out for me is watching dads bring their young boys to female games where there's no male game afterwards. There's certainly going to be a lot more of that moving forward just with how much exposure women's cricket is going to get in the next six months with the World Cup and the Commonwealth Games.
In this phase of your career is there someone who you lean on for advice from outside the Australia coaching group?
She's probably not someone I would ring up about my batting because she probably knows all about it, but Kirby Short I've got a really good relationship with, post her playing career. She tends to give me a little bit of tough love at times, but also some perspective about how I'm going on and off the field, and she can usually read my body language even if we're not in the same country. She's had a huge influence on how I go about my business and the calmness that you see out there on the field. She's taught me a lot, so if I'm ever feeling like things are getting out of control, she's easily one of the first people I'd get on the phone with to just to share how I'm going. She's got a pretty good reputation around the cricket circle of being a bit of a leader and a mentor, so it'd be silly of me not to use that where I can.
As a team you've needed to come through some challenging situations this summer. Does that stand you in good stead going into a World Cup?
I think any games you can draw on that you've got yourself out of the s**t basically and found a way to win certainly helps. But we're under no illusions that everyone starts from scratch. It means absolutely nothing that we've won the Ashes and we had that earlier streak of 26 games, because we're all starting from square one. So if we're not on our game from day one on March 5, then we're already one step behind everyone else. I think the next few weeks will be really interesting to see how it all unfolds and I think everyone's just really excited to get started.
I'm sure you'd like this tournament to be less stressful than the T20 World Cup campaign, but it's rare for a competition to go without a glitch or a setback. Having gone through that experience, are there things you can draw on?
Even the Ashes didn't start well, did it. I broke my face, Tay [Vlaeminck] was out again with a foot injury. It seems that we can't go on any tour without some kind of hiccup along the way.
We'll always look back at that T20 World Cup and wonder how we got through it in one piece. I certainly can't afford for it to be as stressful this time because I lost a lot of weight during that World Cup and I've probably got nothing left to lose after my surgery.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo