There are still only a handful of female cricketers who are household names. Last year, Meg Lanning became one of them. "The Megastar" spent 2014 accumulating records which cut across the men's and women's games: in January, aged 21, she became the youngest captain of Australia, beating Ian Craig; and, in March, she slammed an unbeaten 126 off 65 balls in the World Twenty20 against Ireland at Sylhet, the second-highest score in all 20-over internationals, behind compatriot Aaron Finch's 156 at the Rose Bowl in 2013. Overall, Lanning averaged nearly 50 in one-day internationals last year, and 52 in Twenty20s - and entered 2015 top of both sets of world rankings. She also made an assured debut in the Channel Nine commentary box. A megastar indeed.
Elevated to the captaincy in January 2014 following an injury to Jodie Fields midway through the Ashes, Lanning was soon leading Australia to their third successive World Twenty20 title, topping the run-chart with 257. Her strike-rate of 158 was far higher than any batsman who managed 100 runs, and she hit eight sixes, three clear of the field. In the final, where Australia raced to victory over England, she outmanoeuvred her opposite number, Charlotte Edwards, and hit 44 from 30 balls, including a 72-metre straight six off the competition's leading wicket-taker, Anya Shrubsole. By the end of 2014, her powerful batting had - with the help of Ellyse Perry - taken Australia to the top of the inaugural ICC Women's Championship, after whitewashes against Pakistan and West Indies. Lanning's last four one-day international scores of the year were 95, 22, 135 not out and 84.
Her rise through the ranks has been swift. She was born in Singapore, where her father Wayne was working, before the Lannings moved to suburban Sydney when she was a few months old. There she learned the game alongside her younger sister, Anna, before the family relocated again, to Victoria. From a young age she played representative cricket against, and alongside, boys' teams. Her one-day debut came in January 2011 against England at Perth and, in only her second game, she scored an unbeaten 104, becoming at 18 years 288 days the youngest Australian - male or female - to score an international century. A year later, against New Zealand, she scored a hundred in 45 balls, breaking the record for the fastest century by an Australian. And all this while studying for a degree in Exercise and Health Science.
"It's the way I grew up playing," she says of her aggressive style. "I like to score as quickly as I can. I feel like my batting has evolved over the last few years as my confidence has increased. And it's great to be introducing more people to women's cricket, showing them what we have to offer: above all, an exciting game." More than most, Lanning has helped make it so.