Australia’s vanquished tournament favourites will return home to the uncertainty of unemployment and the searching questions of a nation that expected them to be lifting the World Cup trophy at Lord’s, rather then losing a semi-final to a supercharged India in Derby.
Meg Lanning’s team signed short-term contracts to ensure they were paid throughout the tournament amid the pay war between Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers Association back home, but now join their male and domestic counterparts in awaiting the resolution of a dispute that is fast running out of time to avoid major commercial and competitive dislocation in the game.
At the same time, Lanning and the coach Matthew Mott are expecting to face a concerted inquisition from CA’s team performance manager, Pat Howard, as to why the Australians failed to produce their best at the pointy end of the Cup. Defeat to India means Australia hold neither of the game’s two major trophies for the first time since 2009.
“Normally there’s a pretty exhaustive review, Pat Howard, the boss, will certainly ask some questions,” Mott said. “So when we get home we’ll have to face the music I guess. [We’ll] go through what went right and what went wrong, and there’ll be a lot of questions asked because we came here with the expectation to win, we had the team that could have won the competition and we didn’t. So we’ve got to ask ourselves some tough questions. We’re hurting a fair bit at the moment but there’s certainly a lot of areas we have to work on.
“We’ve got a culture where we throw things around and brainstorm a lot. We should have been blown off the park today and the fact we hung in there and kept it alive – we take that away. A bit of that Aussie spirit to the end there – Alex Blackwell’s innings was pretty special I think. So those sort of things, but we’ve come here to win and we go away losing semi-finalists. We’re very disappointed.”
On a day when she was unable to lead with the bat, bowled by a superb swinging delivery from Jhulan Goswami, Lanning said her team had been unable to find the consistency to play the “perfect game” when both bat and ball were in sync. This was underlined by how Harmanpreet Kaur dominated Australia’s bowlers with an innings of rare ferocity, leaving too much to be done in the chase after early wickets fell to the moving ball.
“We came here to win, so there’s not a whole lot of positives. I thought we played good cricket in patches, we weren’t really able to put the perfect game together,” Lanning said. “There were glimpses there but, to win a World Cup, you’ve got to be consistent and put performances together.
“It’s definitely a very disappointing finish to the tournament. We came here to win, and we’re not going to get the chance to play off in the final. India were too good today; they outplayed us in all the facets of the game, so we’re going to have to look at a few things and see what we need to do, because all the teams around the world now are improving all the time.
“The standard of this World Cup’s been as good as it’s ever been. So there’s a lot more teams competing up the top now, so we’re very aware of that and and given the result today we’ve got a fair bit of work to do to make sure we keep getting better and are able to beat sides like England and India who are in the final.”
Mott said that in the field the Australians had not adapted quickly enough to Harmanpreet’s aggression, echoing the match against Sri Lanka when Chamari Atapattu hammered an unbeaten 178. On that occasion, Lanning had been able to respond in kind with a domineering innings of her own, but this time she could not, leaving deputy Alex Blackwell to mount a brave but ultimately fruitless rearguard.
“We ran into someone who was red hot and just didn’t adapt quickly enough,” Mott said. “[It was] possibly the innings of her life but that’s two we’ve had in this competition that we haven’t reacted well to, so very disappointing. It was a good cricket wicket but they scored 40-50 too many. We needed to stop the hemorrhaging there when they were going; just needed some discipline there, and it just went to custard to be honest … they got far too many.
“We just wanted a nice platform, but I think they bowled extremely well to knock a few of us over early. The ball was swinging and they hit the stumps, which is what we talk about doing, so that put us behind, and we always needed a platform I think. A couple of special innings by Villani and Alex was brilliant, but we just left too much, too late.”
As for the prospect of returning home to unemployment, Lanning did not yet want to think about it. “We haven’t even thought about that to be honest,” she said. “We know CA and the ACA have been working in the background there, so that’ll all play out over the next couple of weeks but I don’t think any of the playing group or the staff have given it much thought.”