Healy ‘comfortable with Australia’s progression’ with new-look outfit still finding their feet

Fans of Australia cricket are so used to their women’s team winning, that every loss raises a few eyebrows. They have won the T20 World Cup six times – including back-to-back ones in 2020 and 2023 – and the ODI version seven times.

But in 2023, they merely retained the Women’s Ashes by drawing the multi-format series. They won the one-off Test at Trent Bridge but lost each of the white-ball series 2-1 to England. The year also saw a record chase in a T20I by West Indies at the North Sydney Oval.

After they began their multi-format tour of India with an eight-wicket loss in the one-off Test at Wankhede, you would wonder: are the heydays gone? Are they well past their prime? Has the golden run come to an end?

“There is always a lot of expectation and external noise about our team and how they are performing,” Healy said. “They are so used to us winning that at times they forget that we have seen a lot of change over the last 12-18 months that goes unnoticed external to our group. Within the group, we are comfortable about where we are at and the progression we are on.”

In the interim, though, their set-up has undergone a lot of changes. Then head coach Matthew Mott moved on to the same role with England men in 2022. Shelley Nitschke, the assistant to Mott, was handed the reins. Meg Lanning, who had an enviable record since being appointed captain at 21, announced her retirement from international cricket this October. Healy was handed the full-time captaincy ahead of the India tour with Tahlia McGrath her deputy.

Australia were playing a Test in India for the first time in close to 40 years. They landed in the city last week and underwent training even as India played a Test in Navi Mumbai against England. Last Sunday, they also had a one-day game with the red-ball against a Mumbai XI. Yet, they couldn’t avert defeat in the Test match with India completing the final rites in an hour after lunch on the fourth day.

“There is no real time to learn, adapt and find a style of play,” she said. “It was a tough ask but I am really proud of our group and the fight we showed.

“Standing there at the [presentation], when Anjum [Chopra, former India captain] asked me a question, I said yup, imagine playing two more of these. That would be an unbelievable experience for our group and probably a true test of both side’s abilities. In a one-off Test [with] India playing in their home conditions, you’d expect them to be heavy favourites. We’d love to see more and more, and it would create a real contest in three games.”

Australia played the Ashes Test in Nottingham in June, where the conditions were different. After the Mumbai Test, their next game in the longest format is at home against South Africa early next year. Healy, while fully aware of the packed international calendar, said that it was a tough ask of a team to adapt and win across conditions in a format they play very little of. No team in the world has a multi-day competition for women in the domestic circuit.

“We are going to play three Tests over the space of nine months in three very, very different conditions,” she said. “That is probably a big ask for a side to come out and play the way they want to. You think about the way that you want to play but sometimes it doesn’t come to fruition because of the conditions that we are not used to.

“I can happily sit here and say, yes sir, I’d love to play more Test cricket. It’s the reality of what that looks like and how we would make that happen knowing that we are white-ball dominant. We have World Cups seemingly every year in the white-ball formats and how would that all fit in and take place when there’s only three-four teams playing [Test cricket].”

The Test against India was Healy’s second as a captain. She led Australia in the Ashes with Lanning away on a break. She admitted she was coming to grips with captaincy in the longest format.

“I am still coming to grips with it,” she said. “I have played just seven Tests. You wouldn’t see too many captains sitting here that have played those little test matches in the men’s game. For all of us, we are still learning about the game. But in saying that, it is the simplest version of the game and it is a combination of the other cricket we have played. There are parts we can take from the one-day game that we can put in the Test match arena.”

When India had toured Australia in 2021 for a multi-format tour including the pink-ball Test, points were at stake throughout the series. A Test match was followed by three ODIs and T20Is each with four points for a Test win and two for each white-ball win. Australia won the ODI and T20I series and the day-night Test was drawn, which meant they took home the multi-format trophy. But the current tour does not have points at stake. As a result, Healy said that the result “feels meaningless to a sense”.

“It is a bit easier to move on [from the loss],” she said. “I sit here disappointed that we couldn’t win the Test match. When we were not playing for points, or series points, or for a [specific] trophy, it does make it a little bit of novelty because you just heard me ten minutes ago say that I want to play more Test cricket. The fact that it sort of feels meaningless to a sense feels disappointing to me.”

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