Australia captain Meg Lanning is hopeful that a maiden WBBL title will cease to elude her this season as she resumes leadership duties at a new-look Melbourne Stars. She believes the recruitment of England's star allrounders Katherine Brunt and Nat Sciver will inject a much-needed "killer instinct" and the "real will to wanting to win" in the club, who couldn't qualify for the knockouts in any of the past five seasons of the eight-team tournament.
Coming off a three-year stint at the Perth Scorchers, Lanning, 28, signed a three-year deal with the Stars, having previously played for them in the first two editions of the WBBL where she scored 1,062 runs and was the team's leading run-scorer in both campaigns. She then missed her first season with the Scorchers due to a shoulder injury before scoring 920 runs across her next two summers. Although the Scorchers made it to the knockouts last year, eventual runners-up Adelaide Strikers knocked them out with an eight-wicket semi-final defeat at Allan Border Field.
"I'm looking forward to her [Katherine Brunt] bring some aggression and really taking it to the other teams." Meg Lanning
Taking over the captaincy reins from Elyse Villani at the Stars, Lanning was hopeful the inclusion of the English players and the retention of Villani and veteran South Africa batter Mignon du Preez, the side's highest run-getter with 1,118 runs at a strike rate of 108.43, could add bite to the Stars' bowling and batting. The up-and-coming Australia allrounder Annabel Sutherland, in Lanning's view, will further bolster their resources.
"The Melbourne Stars, our list is really shaping up nicely," Lanning told ESPNcricinfo. "We've got Katherine Brunt and Nat Sciver joining us, Mignon du Preez, Elyse Villani, Annabel Sutherland are the marquee international players. That's a really good mix of firepower with bat and ball and we've got some really good young kids coming through.
"We targeted really specific skillsets in terms of who we wanted. Just being a good team on paper doesn't give you any guarantees but looking at our team, I think it's really strong and the players we brought in are really competitive as well.
"That's perhaps something that the Melbourne Stars have lacked in the first five editions - that real killer instinct and the real will to wanting to win. And I think we've been able to address that with our recruits, especially Katherine Brunt. I'm looking forward to her bring some aggression and really taking it to the other teams."
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A five-time World Cup winner, and captain in three of those title triumphs - all in the shortest format - Lanning recently led Australia, alongside Rachael Haynes, to a world-record-equalling 21-ODI winning streak during the 3-0 home series whitewash of New Zealand in Brisbane. Earlier in the year, she captained hosts Australia to a tri-series victory against England and India, and her side trumped the latter in the final of the T20 World Cup at the MCG, with Lanning becoming only the third Australian captain, after Lyn Larsen and Michael Clarke, to win a World Cup on home soil. The WBBL's top prize remains the only piece of silverware missing in her trophy cabinet, decked with achievements earned over an international career nearing a decade.
Lanning, who lives in Melbourne and plays for Victoria in the Women's National Cricket League, said that the decision to move back to the Stars was primarily dictated by wanting to spend "more time home". However, with the Covid-19 pandemic necessitating lockdown impositions of varying degrees across Australia, the restriction of the whole of the upcoming WBBL's sixth season to a Sydney hub has put paid to her original plans.
"Chasing a title in the WBBL, everybody would say that [it's on their mind]," she said. "I've enjoyed my three years in Perth, they [the Perth Scorchers] are a great club. They're really well run. Eventually it came down to being in Melbourne a little bit more and spending more time home.
"It's funny how it's panned out: we will be in Sydney the whole time this year and we won't be in Melbourne. But that's just this year, hopefully, obviously, with the Covid-19 pandemic. There's only so much that can be done about that. It's great that we've got the tournament up and running."
The Stars will kick off their campaign against the Melbourne Renegades at the Hurstville Oval on October 25 in the last of the four matches on the tournament's opening day.