Raf Nicholson looks into the fantastic 2020 of Beth Mooney, named Wisden’s Leading Woman Cricketer in the World in the 2021 Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, which is out now.
Beth Mooney hates blowing her own trumpet. Her aim, she says, is to play her best cricket, but remain out of the spotlight – which is easier said than done. When she found out she had won this award, her initial reaction was discomfort: “I don’t want that tag. I just want to be me, and fly under the radar.” She had felt the same way in March, when she was Player of the Tournament at the T20 World Cup, after scores of 81 not out, 60, 28 and a calm but combative 54-ball 78 not out against India in the final. “I wondered if they’d made a mistake.” They hadn’t. A day later, the ICC rankings proved it: Mooney was now officially the No. 1 T20 batter in the world.
Mooney, who grew up in Shepparton, Victoria, and moved to Queensland aged ten, made her state debut four days after turning 16. She had to bide her time to rise to the top. In 2014, months after quitting a teaching degree to focus on cricket, she was called up to the national side – though as reserve keeper for a World T20 warm-up. Eventually, aged 22, she made her debut, against India in a T20 at Adelaide in January 2016. But trying to bag a place as a specialist batter in the most successful women’s side of all time was a struggle.
A T20 century in 2017-18 Ashes was the turning point. Between then and the end of last year, she scored more runs in 20-over internationals – 1,350 – than anyone in the world, of either sex. Given that her batting relies on timing and placement rather than biffing sixes, that pointsto a phenomenal consistency. Asked what has changed, she mentions a renewed focus on fitness, and “staying neutral and balanced, managing my emotions”.
One innings typified Mooney’s new resilience. It came in the final of the Women’s Big Bash League in January 2019. Suffering from flu and heat exhaustion, she scored 65 from 46 balls – pausing between overs to dry-retch – and won the game for Brisbane Heat. In December that year, as the Heat defended their title, she was Player of the Match in the final once more. A move to Perth Scorchers for 2020-21 meant only more of the same: Mooney topped the charts with 551, and overtook Ellyse Perry as the leading run-scorer in WBBL history, with 3,127 at 46, including 30 scores of 50-plus in 89 innings. The tournament, she says, “showed me and everyone else that I am good enough to make it on the big stage”.
That, combined with top-scoring in a World Cup final in front of 86,000 at the MCG, means “flying under the radar” proved tricky. But then it was only a matter of time before everyone sat up and took notice.
WISDEN’S LEADING WOMAN CRICKETER IN THE WORLD
2014 Meg Lanning (Aus)
2015 Suzie Bates (NZ)
2016 Ellyse Perry (Aus)
2017 Mithali Raj (India)
2018 Smriti Mandhana (Ind)
2019 Ellyse Perry (Aus)
2020 Beth Mooney (Australia)