Meg Lanning Opens Up About Her International Retirement at Just 31: “Was not mentally and physically fit for commitment”

“I was not in a place to be able to go on tour and play cricket and give the commitment levels required for that Ashes series, mentally and physically,” explains Meg Lanning, who retired from international cricket last November.

Meg Lanning and her International Retirement Concerns

Legendary Australia cricket captain Meg Lanning has revealed she struggled with “an unhealthy relationship” with exercise and food leading up to her shock retirement. A self-described private person, Lanning has finally decided to share why she ended her international career last November at the age of 31.

The Victorian took a six-month break from cricket following the Commonwealth Games in 2022, spending time away from the cricket bubble to travel and work in a coffee shop. She returned to lead Australia to a T20 World Cup title in February 2023 but suddenly pulled out of last year’s Ashes for undisclosed medical reasons. Lanning has revealed she was grappling with an identity crisis outside of cricket that not even her teammates and closest friends knew about.

Lanning About her Retirement

She was often only eating two “not significant” meals a day despite running up to 90km a week.

Lanning did not label her relatively insignificant food intake as an eating disorder – but admitted she was in denial about needing help. “It sort of just spiraled and I was in denial, even though everyone kept telling me something wasn’t quite right,” Lanning told The Howie Games podcast. “I was not in a place to be able to go on tour and play cricket and give the commitment levels required for that Ashes series, mentally and physically.

“I got down to about 57kgs from 64kgs. The ratios were out of whack a lot. I did not realize (it affected) my ability to concentrate. I didn’t really want to see other people. I disengaged a lot from friends and family. It was just all out of whack and I kept sliding. At some point, it’s got to stop. I felt very out of control in terms of what my future looked like: ‘If it’s not cricket, what does life look like if I am not playing?’.”

Lanning said it had crept up on her, with the problem coming to the fore while she was captaining Australia to a sixth title at the T20 World Cup in South Africa and the Women’s Premier League in Mumbai that followed immediately after.

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“It was a bit of my coping mechanism, I’d love just chucking the headphones in and going for a run,” she said.

“I could escape mentally, I’d throw the headphones and I wouldn’t take my phone with me … I’d just have my Apple watch on for some music, so nobody could contact me. It became an obsession, I could escape mentally, no one could contact me, and I felt like I was in control. Initially, it didn’t start as a deliberate thing, it just became a bit of a new normal.”

“But it slowly crept into conscious decisions because essentially I felt good, I was light, I could run heaps and I wasn’t getting injured like everybody was telling me I was going to. World Cup, WPL last year probably was when I was getting a little bit out of control in terms of the obsessive side of what I was doing. I don’t sit still normally but it was just like no days off, can’t eat your meal until you’ve gone for a big run. That’s when it took hold a fair bit.”

Remarkably, Lanning was still able to perform, scoring 149 runs at an average of 49 for Australia during that World Cup and perhaps more notably, employing her decade of captaincy nous in the field to guide her team to victory in two tense finals against India and South Africa.

In retrospect, she conceded that may not have been helpful, as it only fed her belief that she was fine. At her lowest, Lanning only slept for a “couple of hours” every night.

“I dreaded nighttime because I knew I would go to bed and not be able to sleep,” she said. “That would make me so mad. I would just get more angry with myself. If you can’t sleep, you can’t do anything.”

Privately dealing with health challenges, Lanning was still able to perform on the field, but could no longer commit to being captain of Australia and touring regularly.

“No matter what was happening, I was always able to perform,” she said.

The superstar batter has continued playing in the Weber WBBL, Women’s National Cricket League, and WPL in India, but has decided against representing Australia again. She initially returned to play for the Melbourne Stars in WBBL|09 in October, before stepping away from the game again towards the end of the regular season. Lanning was back playing for Victoria in the second half of the WNCL in January and ended up scoring 492 runs in 10 innings.

She then went to India for the second season of the WPL, leading Delhi to the final where they finished runners-up to Royal Challengers Bangalore.

“It’s still not back to normal ratios I would say, (I have) lots of conversations that I have with myself around what I should do and what is the right thing to do for my health but it’s hard for my brain,” Lanning said. “I have that battle and sometimes I win, sometimes I don’t. I feel like I’m in a good spot now. Cricket is still part of what I do, but I just wasn’t cut out for the international touring schedule and what came with all of that.”

Lanning was drafted by London Spirit for this year’s edition of The Hundred and still holds a contract with the Stars. She said she was enjoying the freedom of life away from international touring – most of all, being able to spend more time with friends and family.

The next step will be working out what her passions are outside of cricket.

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“That’s exciting and daunting at the same time,” she said. “What do I want to do? I could go into coaching or commentary, but is that what I really want to do? I love sport, so sport will be involved in the next step. I’m lucky I don’t have to rush into anything specific. I love coffee. I do have this one vision of maybe one day owning my own coffee shop.”

Lanning led the nation to a record five T20 World Cup crowns after becoming Australia’s youngest skipper in 2014, at the age of 21. A three-time Belinda Clark Medal winner, Lanning scored 8352 runs from 241 international matches after debuting in T20s in 2010.

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