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‘Pretty much wasn’t sleeping’ – Meg Lanning opens up on struggles that influenced her retirement

Meg Lanning
by Wisden Staff 5 minute read

Former Australia captain Meg Lanning opened up about what prompted her sudden retirement from international cricket in November 2023.

Meg Lanning was only 31 when she announced her retirement from international cricket in November 2023. An ODI World Cup, four T20 World Cups, and a Commonwealth Games gold medal make her one of the most decorated captains of all time.

As batter, no one matches her 15 ODI hundreds (in a mere 102 innings) or batting average of 53.51. In T20Is, only Suzie Bates has more runs. Naturally, her retirement came as a shock to all, though she had opted out of international fixtures since February 2023.

For the first time since her retirement, Lanning spoke on her decision, on the Howie Games podcast: “I was over-exercising and under-fuelling. I got to the point where I was doing about 85-90 km [running] a week. I was in denial.”

She spoke in detail about how she became obsessed with fitness: “It became a bit of an obsession. It was because I could escape mentally. I would throw the headphones in, I wouldn’t take my phone with me. I would have my Apple watch with me and listen to music. Nobody could contact me. I really liked that because I felt like I was in control.

“I felt like I was eating. I was still eating. But I’m much more aware of it now. I was not eating enough. I’d eat maybe a couple of meals a day if I was lucky and they weren’t significant. It didn’t start off as a deliberate thing. It just became a bit of a new normal. It sort of slowly crept into conscious decisions. Essentially I felt good. I was light. I could run heaps. I wasn’t getting injured like everyone was telling me I was going to do. It almost became a bit of, ‘I am going to show you’ sort of thing. It sort of just spiralled and I was in denial. I got down to 57kg from 64kg. It wasn’t ridiculous but it was significant. The ratios were out of whack.”

But as she became fitter and healthier, other problems crept in: “But it was the other things that I did not realise. It [affected] my ability to concentrate. I didn’t really want to see other people. I disengaged a lot from friends and family. I didn’t realise that I was doing this. It sort of became a new normal.

“I naturally would enjoy spending time by myself. I’m totally fine with that, but there would be very few people who I would want to engage with. I would get really snappy, real moody if anyone asked anything. I became a bit of a different person. Pretty hard to be around, I would say. 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. So the decision was made with me in conjunction with the medical team to miss that tour.”

However, she clarified that it had not been an eating disorder: “It was not labelled that but I was exercising a lot but not eating enough to fuel that. I was a bit out of whack. 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? How could I not want to travel the world and play cricket? That doesn’t make any sense. So [my obsession] was a bit of control. I felt like I was in control of that.”

In an effort to return to domestic cricket, Lanning had turned to medical professionals, but she never told her teammates the full story but felt they suspected something was wrong: “I think they knew something was up. I couldn’t see it in my appearance but [they] could see it and everything that comes with it.”

It had been a difficult few months for her: “The other behaviours as you settle into your new normal of not speaking to many people, being grumpy, not being able to concentrate, not sleeping.

“I pretty much wasn’t sleeping. I got to the point where I dreaded night-time because I knew I would go to bed and not be able to sleep. That would make me so mad. I would just get more angry with myself because I couldn’t sleep. And you can’t do anything. At least during the day when I get a bit anxious, I can go for a run. That’s what I was thinking. I can do that. Sleeping for a long time was a big struggle. But somehow I kept operating.”

Thankfully, she has been able to put most of her struggles behind her: “I feel like I’m in a good spot now. Cricket is still part of what I do, but I wasn’t cut out for the international touring schedule and what came with all of that.

“What I have come to know is that everybody is always going through something, no matter how much they look like they have got things under control. And that was something that I felt like I was good at, looking like I had everything under control. And that’s absolutely not the case. I’ve really started to understand how actually talking to people and letting people know can actually help.”

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