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Nitschke’s inbox: Haynes’ replacement, new leaders and sustaining success

When Nitschke and her fellow selectors next get around a table to pick the squad to tour India in December, one of the key questions will be who replaces Rachael Haynes following her retirement last week. She will be a significant loss across all formats, but most pressing initially will be the T20 with the five matches in India and an eye on next year’s World Cup.

“Rachael leaves a huge void, both on and off the court,” Nitschke said in Brisbane on Tuesday. “She’s going to be really hard to replace.”

From a batting point of view, a lot can depend on how the players fare in the upcoming WBBL. If Ellyse Perry brings the form she showed at the start of the Hundred into a middle-order role with the Sydney Sixers, then it could be a way for her to play again. If there is a thought to look to the future, a player such as as Phoebe Litchfield may get their chance. Then there’s a more experienced figure like Georgia Redmayne, who has been on the fringes for the past few seasons without yet making a debut.
Meg Lanning’s indefinite break from the game after the Commonwealth Games, followed by Haynes’ retirement, has put the spotlight on the captaincy. If Lanning has not returned from the India tour, a new manager will be required, and even if Lanning is back, who will succeed her remains a lingering question. One solution to the immediate needs, if required, could be Alyssa Healy, who will captain New South Wales early this season, although she would have to balance it with batting and team, while Jess Jonassen and Tahlia McGrath also captain their states.

“There is a good group of new leaders on our team who will have opportunities to put their hands up,” Nitschke said. “We don’t have a designated leadership group, but there are people among the team and group that are leaders on and off the court. Some girls are leaders in their states. They all have different strengths.”

At some point in the next few years, other players will follow Haynes’ lead and call it a day — some perhaps sooner than later — when one of the most dominant sports teams in history begins to break up. The Australian system is well placed to fill gaps as they arise, but the strength of the domestic game – and areas like Australia A – will have to come into their own. And ideally, departures will be staggered to avoid a mass exit of three or four key players at once.

“Whether it’s now, a year or two years from now, there will be some changes,” Nitschke said. “At the moment we’ve got a good, strong core of a team. I expect them to carry on and be around for a while, but there will be changes coming. We’ve got a really good home club backing us so It’s going to be exciting to see who raises their hand.”

Right now, Australia holds every major prize going: ODI World Cup, T20 World Cup, Commonwealth Games gold and the multi-format Ashes. In terms of winning, they have almost pushed the bar as high as it can go. It has been an extraordinary era. Over the past few years, the team has always had another big goal to aim for, be it home World Cup in T20, ODI redemption or gold medal. Now they have to start again.

“It’s one of the best sporting teams in Australia at the moment, or for a long time, and to be involved first-hand and guide them in that is a pretty exciting prospect,” Nitschke said. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I certainly don’t want to go in and change everything we do because we’ve been so successful. I think it’s about evolving with the game and looking to get better It’s about reassessing and reassessing.

“We’ve obviously had a lot of success and it’s a challenge to stay at the top of the game. We know around the world there are other teams coming after us. India keep challenging us and will continue with doing it. We hope that just pushes us to be better as well.”

With Nitschke’s promotion and Ben Sawyer leaving to be head coach of the New Zealand women’s team, there will be significant changes in the backroom. Dan Marsh and Jude Coleman were assistant coaches for Ireland’s tour and the Commonwealth Games. For the past few weeks, Cricket Australia has been advertising the position and the first deadline is September 23. “We need people with relationship skills who know the game and the players really well and the trends in the global game, I think that’s a real advantage because we might start playing a bit more Test cricket,” Nitschke said. “To keep challenging [the players] and pushing them forward is something quite important to us.”

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