Beth Mooney’s focus on greater self-belief and quicker adaptation to specific sets of conditions and match scenarios underlines why she will enter Australia’s first international assignment on home soil since the onset of Covid-19 as the world’s best T20 batter.
Far from sitting back contentedly on a dominant T20 World Cup, capped by the perfect anchor innings in Australia’s triumphant final against India at a packed MCG in March, Mooney has spent the intervening months working to build on her own levels of assurance and versatility when confronted by different situations at the top of the order alongside Alyssa Healy.
This emphasis was encouraged by the fact that, apart from the final itself, Australia’s road to the T20 World Cup was anything but smooth, with early struggles followed by an anxious passage through a rain-hit semi-final against South Africa and the looming threat of coronavirus before the competition decider ultimately played out as if in a dream.
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“It’s not so much technical sides of my game but more the way I think about it,” Mooney said. “I’ve been working on that really closely with Shelley Nitschke up in Brisbane and [former Australia coach] Mark Sorrell, so that’s been really cool to work with different people and get different perspectives of what they think where I’m at, compared to what I think. Given we’ve just been training for four to five months I’m really excited about being able to put some things into fruition out in the middle and hopefully take the game on.
“There’s usually times when I’m pretty unsure of myself out in the middle and not necessarily backing my decision-making and the situation in the game. But to be put under different scenarios on the wickets at training and I guess learning to adapt quicker to what the wicket’s doing and what the situation might be. They’re only scenarios but to get some feedback from the coach directly is pretty important.
“I guess I needed a little bit more data to collect that what I was thinking was pretty accurate with whatever was happening with the wicket or the situation. That’s been really nice to be able to have those conversations and working closely with people who are highly respected helps as well.”
Memories of those hectic days in February and March, particularly after an opening loss to India in Sydney and then a nervous chase against Sri Lanka in Perth, where the team looked briefly to be on the cusp of elimination, have bolstered Mooney’s belief that the group led by Meg Lanning is not just a collective of frontrunners, but also fighters.
“We got ourselves in positions where we were put under the pump a lot more and I feel like we came out on top in a lot of those situations,” Mooney said. “We’ll be able to look back on that tournament when we’re under the pump or feeling under pressure and be able to get through those situations pretty nicely.
“It was a different tournament for us in the sense that we were challenged and put under pressure a fair bit, but at the same time that’s a really good indicator of where the game’s at around the globe, people are investing in women’s cricket. To be able to have contests like we did at the World Cup means this series against New Zealand will be no different and they’ll be really tightly fought.”
More broadly, Australia’s next major ambition is to reclaim the ODI World Cup, after they were eliminated in the semi-finals by India in 2017, leaving England to lift the trophy at Lord’s. “The easy part about playing in this team is everyone has a drive and ambition to be better and continually improve,” Mooney said. “We’re ranked No. 1 in the world and we have big ambitions to stay there for as long as possible and be one of the greatest teams that’s ever played.
“For us, we won the T20 World Cup so there’s a bit of a target on our back now, but New Zealand are a class side and this will be the first challenge that we have in making sure we can be as consistent as possible in these T20s, and then the one-day series, the carrot dangling for us is that world record of 21 straight ODI wins.”
Top-scorer in the final
Top scorer in the #T20WorldCup
Most runs in any T20 World Cup ever
Beth Mooney is the Player of the Tournament pic.twitter.com/Ny10TqFpis
— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) March 8, 2020
As for the changes forced by Covid-19, Mooney said there had been plenty of sobering moments during the six months since the T20 World Cup final, all of which made the team’s first all-in training sessions since that tournament feel like even more of a privilege than usual.
“The biggest one for me is seeing the humans being impacted, whether it’s their job situation or challenges they’re facing in their families, being stuck in isolation down in Melbourne, it is pretty easy to be empathetic for humankind at the moment because everything’s difficult for everyone,” Mooney said. “There was a really great vibe at training yesterday because it was the first time we’d all been back together since that World Cup final, so to be able to do something we love and do it in the current climate is something we’re really excited about and passionate about and grateful as well.”
Among numerous adjustments for Mooney to make this season is the fact that, after making a significant move to the Perth Scorchers ahead of this year’s WBBL, she will turn out for the Perth team without ever setting foot in the west due to the state’s current hard border.
“I’ll just stay in Brisbane post this series and probably train with Shelley Nitschke and obviously Sophie Devine’s over here with New Zealand, so there’ll be a couple of us training up here in Brisbane,” she said. “Obviously we can’t get over to Perth, and we’ll join up with the squad in Sydney before we get stuck into that tournament.”
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