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Feature

CWG 2022: It will be a surprise if Australia don't take home the gold

Meg Lanning's team also have the desire to embrace the Team Australia aspect of a multi-sport event, which will be a new experience

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
27-Jul-2022
Meg Lanning with the World Cup trophy, Australia vs England, Women's World Cup 2022 final, Christchurch, April 3, 2022

Meg Lanning has won everything there is to win in the last four years  •  Getty Images

When you are a team like Australia, who have won everything on offer in the last few years, it is probably not a bad thing to have a brand new prize to aim for.
In the last four years, Meg Lanning has led her side to two T20 World Cup titles, two Ashes crowns, and an ODI World Cup title alongside other series successes. Their last defeat in any bilateral series came in T20Is, against England in 2017, that were part of the multi-format Ashes.
But as the side enters its new coaching era following the departure of Matthew Mott, the prospect of adding a Commonwealth Games gold medal is an alluring one, and something no one has ever had before. Winning more cricket matches is enough motivation for this team as it looks to continue forging its legacy, but there is also the desire to embrace the Team Australia aspect of a multi-sport event, which will be a new experience.
"The first Commonwealth Games medal up for grabs in women's cricket is certainly something we're striving for," Lanning said before team left for their warm-up tri-series in Ireland. "Being part of that bigger Australian team, which is something we really want to embrace. To represent Australia on a really big stage, a new platform for the game to be able to reach a new audience, is something that is really exciting for the sport.
"It's hugely special. I grew up watching a lot of the Commonwealth Games and I just love the team atmosphere."
It was a view echoed by vice-captain Rachael Haynes. "There is a sense that it'll be a little bit different, it's almost the unknown," she said. "I think the team's just really looking forward to it. To be around a whole group of different athletes and different sports and be a team within a much larger team as well."
As it was in New Zealand a few months ago, it would be a surprise if they did not achieve their ambition of gold - although, at some point, there has to be a hiccup in their all-conquering era. A place in the final is a bare minimum expectation even taking into account the jeopardy of semi-finals and the fact the T20 format narrows the margins.
Meeting India in the opening match brings back memories of the previous T20 World Cup in Australia, when they stumbled in their first game and were left walking a tightrope for the rest of the competition. We all know how it ended, but it was rarely a serene progression until they cut loose in the final against India at the MCG. "We seem to meet them a lot in the first game of major tournaments," Lanning agreed.
Matches against Barbados - who will include potential match-winners Hayley Matthews and Deandra Dottin - and Pakistan follow, and though the top two from each group go through there is not much margin for error.
While there has been major change in the coaching set-up - and Shelley Nitschke is only interim head coach, although she will be favourite for the long-term position - the playing squad is notable for its stability. It is the same 15 names who were on duty for the ODI World Cup.
Long-term injuries to Georgia Wareham and Tayla Vlaeminck continue to be covered with great effectiveness, an allrounder of the quality of Sophie Molineux can't get on the contracts' list, and Ellyse Perry is no longer a first-choice in the T20I side.
Those who have taken their chance to fill the gaps already look like mainstays. Darcie Brown is in the race to reach 80mph [it would be fun if she and England's Issy Wong face off in this tournament] and legspinner Alana King is proving a wicket-taking machine. Tahlia McGrath's magnificent start to T20I cricket - as part of a stunning re-emergence to the international game - is largely responsible for pushing Perry to the sidelines, which happened before her latest back injury.
If Australia reach the final in Birmingham, there is every chance that for the second time in three major tournaments, Perry won't feature. The hamstring injury at the 2020 T20 World Cup was awful luck, but it is starting to feel like a defining moment in her T20 career. That in itself says so much about Australian cricket and why they are the force they are.
Of course, you would not put it past Perry to reinvent herself as a T20 cricketer; there is the motivation of the World Cup title defence in South Africa early next year for starters, and then, in four years' time, the Commonwealth Games is held in regional Victoria. Will Perry, already 15 years into international cricket, still be part of it by then? Only time will tell, but for many in this Australia side it is well within range.
"Hopefully I'm still around to be involved," Lanning said, no doubt hoping they are defending gold medallists.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo