Nasser Hussain casts eye on 2024 in the Women’s game
After successfully defending their ICC Women’s T20 World Cup crown in South Africa in February, Australia aim to keep the title in their trophy case next September in the 2024 edition, held in Bangladesh.
Australia’s push to continue in the same vein heads into a new era, with Alyssa Healy taking the captaincy reins on a permanent basis, following the retirement of Meg Lanning.
In spite of the monumental loss of a skipper who led the team to five World Cup trophies across the two white-ball formats, Hussain believes Australia are still the yardstick in the women’s game.
“They have been the greatest cricketing side there has ever been, arguably one of the greatest sporting sides there's ever been in any sport, but obviously, they've had a major change in Meg Lanning,” Hussain began, speaking to Sanjana Ganesan.
“With any great team, there are great leaders. And for me, Meg Lanning was a great leader for that team.
“I'll be fascinated to see if they can continue their dominance because they've certainly got the players. I think they'll go from strength to strength.”
Healy has vowed to make her own mark as a “different style of leader” to her predecessor, and Hussain feels the wicket-keeper and opening batter can flourish, if she sticks to the aggressive style that has brought success to the team as a senior player.
“I think it's exactly what she needs right now in her career,” Hussain said of Healy taking on the reins.
“I think it will be a great move for her and Australia. Right at the top of the order, she's been brilliant for Australia.
“I think it'll give her a bit of a boost and kick-starter in 2024.”
Even with the experience of Healy taking over the captaincy, Lanning leaves a hole with the bat, signing off after making more than 8000 runs across a glittering international career.
Of those to step up and play a bigger role, Hussain has pointed to Ash Gardner’s output both with bat and ball, particularly with conditions suiting her game in Bangladesh at next year’s major tournament.
“I think Ashleigh Gardner with bat, ball and in the field is a fabulous talent, and she will be around for years to come,” Hussain noted.
“2024 could be a defining year for her. Multi-dimensional, multi-format cricketer. She'll have a blinding 2024.
“Sometimes when those pitches are tired in the sub-continent and Bangladesh they start gripping, it's difficult for your touch players.
“You may need a bit of power, and Ash Gardner definitely has that power.
“Her off-spinning is just, especially around the wicket, she's magnificent.”
As for the biggest threats to Australia, Hussain acknowledges that there is potential of an upheaval, in the form of an England challenge.
England may not have claimed the Women’s Ashes earlier in the year, though they drew the multi-format series thanks to white-ball success. The side lost the sole Test match worth four points, though two 2-1 wins in both the ODI and T20I series meant it ended in an 8-8 deadlock.
Hussain looked to England’s key players to potentially de-throne the Aussies at the T20 World Cup next year.
“England with their three spinners of Sarah Glenn, Charlie Dean and Sophie Ecclestone, I think in those conditions in Bangladesh, and obviously just (playing) in India at the moment … that'll be great preparation,” Hussain said.
“I'm going to go for an Australia-England final (in Bangladesh).”
Ecclestone has since made a return for England on their tour of India, recovering from a dislocated right shoulder sustained on domestic duty in September.
Hussain is under no illusions how important the spinner and lower order batter is for England, particularly when conditions suit.
“With the cricket that England have coming up and that T20 World Cup in Bangladesh, I think Sophie Ecclestone is pivotal,” Hussain noted.
“Ecclestone is world class, almost an all-rounder the way she's batting as well.”
Hussain also looked to the batting of England, aiming to be part of the generation to end Australia’s dynasty.
The England great expects the 2022 ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year Nat Sciver-Brunt to be front and centre of England’s push, with the help of some younger faces eager to make their mark.
“I think she is just world class at the moment,” Hussain exclaimed in regards to Sciver-Brunt.
“(She is) highly skilled, highly dynamic, but can play in different ways as well. She can soak up pressure in any format, multi-format player.
“I'd also like to see Alice Capsey have a really good year. I think she's a phenomenal talent.
“She burst on the scene a couple of years ago, as a 15 or 16-year-old getting runs in The Hundred at Lord's. The original sort of girl from nowhere story coming on, bursting on the scene, had a brilliant year.
“She's had a couple of injuries, and her form just slipped back a little bit, but I think Alice Capsey is the (emerging player) I would choose from the younger England brigade.”