Australian captain Meg Lanning (left) is a welcome inclusion ahead of the series against Pakistan on home soil (Picture: Cricket Australia)

After making herself available once again and being selected for the series against Pakistan on home soil, Australian captain Meg Lanning will boost an already stacked line-up ahead of the T20 World Cup in February in South Africa when she makes her long-awaited return to the green and gold.

Deciding to step away from the game temporarily in August citing personal reasons, Lanning will return to the field this week after a recent WNCL comeback for Victoria last weekend.

Having led the team to an ODI World Cup and the Commonwealth Games gold medal in Birmingham in 2022, as well as the packed international schedule, Lanning’s return was locked in during the recent tour to India where she broke the news to her teammates.

Fronting the media ahead of the series against Pakistan, all-rounder Jess Jonassen sheds light on Lanning’s return.

“I’m absolutely pumped [that she’s back],” Jonassen said.

“When we were told sort of a few weeks ago [that] Meg was coming back, I must admit I got a bit teary. She did a video message and true to Meg she’s a bit awkward [and] she didn’t know the best way to do it.

“[I] couldn’t have been happier for that news and obviously she’s back playing the game but even more happy that she’s in a good headspace and that break, she got out of it exactly what she needed.”

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Jonassen elaborated on what makes the star batter a great captain, a great leader, and a great person off-the-field as well.

“She’s just really calm and I think that her ability to be calm brings that to everyone around her,” she said.

“She’s got an incredible work ethic as well [and] she leads by example so there’s a lot of people sort of growing up and equally, those alongside her that just want to be like her and I mean [she’s] a very down to earth person, [a] hard worker [and] a great human being so she’s a really good role model for everyone.”

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Having had ‘low points’ in her own life, Jonassen reflected on the weight that Lanning had to bear being in the captaincy role while going through the rigours that the pandemic has brought.

Admitting to being emotional thinking that the outcome might be retirement for Lanning, Jonassen is relieved that she will be led by one of the great female Australian cricketers once again.

“’ Shell’ (Nitschke) sent [the video] through, I’m not sure if she sent it through to the girls over in India but she started [by saying] ‘Oh I’m not sure the right way to do this,’ and my heart sort of sunk immediately because I thought she was going to tell us that she was done,” Jonassen reflected.

“I know what it’s like at different points to feel low, it’s a lot [to deal with] but for someone like her with her role in our team and in society, [she’s] the leader of such a successful team [and] there is a weight on the shoulders there [so] for her to go out there for a few months and live a normal life for a few months it was really cool to see and really pleased she’s back and in a happy and healthy headspace.”

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“I think [for] most people during that COVID kind of period of lockdowns and bubbles, there was that little bit of burnout and then you add that kind of high-pressure situation of elite sport and captaining at the elite level and there’s a lot of expectation on that.

“I think for her to be able to have those experiences and realise that cricket is still where she wanted to be and that’s a win for us.”

Alongside the inclusion of Lanning to the squad was the return of talented spinner Georgia Wareham. Also returning to international cricket via a WNCL game last weekend for Victoria, Wareham has completed her return after a heart-breaking ACL injury suffered during WBBL|07 in October 2021.

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Jonassen says it’s evident that Wareham’s impact will be felt through all facets of the game.

“She’s worked incredibly hard [and] it’s never nice seeing anyone go down with an injury, let alone a long-term one, and Georgia was sort of at the top of her game when did it as well,” she explained.

“It’s really pleasing for her, firstly to see her back on the field over the weekend and secondly for the selectors to include her in this squad.

“She’s a powerhouse, she’s a jet in the field, she bowls really well, and consistently and she’s got some power with the bat as well so I’m hoping to see some really good things from her sort of over this next little period of time, I think she’s a really good addition to our squad.”

Australia’s T20 World Cup Squad: Meg Lanning (c), Alyssa Healy (vc), Darcie Brown, Ashleigh Gardner, Kim Garth, Heather Graham, Grace Harris, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Georgia Wareham

The six-game series against Pakistan will kick off at North Sydney Oval on January 16th with the T20 World Cup to start on February 11 in South Africa.

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