Cricket news 2022: Australian vice-captain Rachael Haynes retires from international cricket, reaction
After returning from Birmingham last month with a Commonwealth Games gold medal draped around her neck, Australian vice-captain Rachael Haynes acknowledged there wasn’t much left for her to achieve in the sport.
The 35-year-old’s trophy cabinet is filled to the brim; she’s a two-time World Cup champion, four-time T20 World Cup champion, four-time Ashes winner, seven-time WNCL winner and two-time WBBL champion.
And less than 12 months after the birth of her first child, Hugo, she knew the time had come to start focusing on life beyond cricket.
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Haynes announced her retirement from professional cricket on Wednesday morning, ending her stellar 13-year international career with 3818 runs to her name.
The crafty left-handed batter captained Australia in 14 matches, including the historic day-night Ashes Test match at North Sydney Oval in November 2017.
Haynes was also a dynamic fielder with a bullet arm, regularly prowling at backward-point ready to pounce on quick singles and sharp catches.
The New South Wales Breakers veteran, who also retired from domestic 50-over cricket on Wednesday, has committed to this summer’s WBBL with the Sydney Thunder, but it will be her last campaign in lime green.
The prospect of vying for a fifth T20 World Cup title in South Africa next year would have been tempting, but Haynes realised her passion for professional cricket was gone after looking at the upcoming cricket schedule.
In her eyes, it would have been “selfish” to keep playing.
“It’s the right time to go,” she told reporters at the SCG on Thursday morning.
“I had the opportunity to pause and reflect after Comm Games. Looking ahead, knowing it’s a lot of cricket coming up and probably the thing that stood out for me was that I wasn’t that excited about getting ready and that’s probably the first time in my career that I felt like that.
“I recognised that maybe it was a sign to step away.
“Perhaps I could have gone on and made it through to the T20 World Cup, but I suppose knowing how I was feeling, I didn’t think it was the right thing to do.
“I know where I’m at at the moment and I know how hard people work for the opportunity to get in that national side and I certainly didn’t want to stand in anyone’s way for my own selfish reasons.
“I’m ready for something new and some different challenges.”
Haynes informed her teammates of her decision at a team dinner on Monday evening, also calling skipper Meg Lanning and former Australian coach Matthew Mott during the week.
“(The dinner) was meant to be to celebrate the World Cup and Comm Games and, unfortunately I made it a little bit about myself in the end,” she laughed.
“It was really nice to have that moment to tell them face-to-face. Maybe there was a little bit of surprise there, but from my own personal point of view, I’d much prefer to do that than sending messages out.”
Australian cricket almost lost Haynes in 2016; she considered walking away from the game after being axed from the national side a couple of years earlier.
But a handful of injuries in the Australian squad paved the way for Haynes’ return to international cricket for a tour of New Zealand in February 2017.
It proved a “sliding doors” moment in her career — she captained Australia at the 2017 World Cup in England a few months later, unveiled as Lanning’s permanent deputy the following year.
“I honestly thought that perhaps I was going to walk away from the game at that time,” Haynes said.
“But I had a lot of people get behind me and support me through that period and give me another chance and it’s changed my life and I’m very grateful.
“It’s always tough being dropped from any side as an athlete, because you’re getting told you’re no longer required to do something that you love, so it definitely takes the wind out of your sails. But somewhere along the way, I found my love for the game again and I wanted to give it one last crack.
“It was one of those sliding doors moments where there was a couple of injuries at the time in the team and I was in the right place at the right time. And the thing that I was proud of was that I stayed ready for that moment too. I was able to step into it when it did come.”
Haynes’ achievements on the field are well-documented, but she was also instrumental in helping grow the women’s game in Australia over the past decade.
Women’s cricket has evolved dramatically since Haynes burst onto the scene in 2009; female athletes are now professional, while domestic T20 leagues such as the WBBL are increasing in popularity every season.
And nothing exemplified how far women’s cricket has come as a product than the unforgettable 2020 T20 World Cup final at the MCG, where 86,174 spectators filled the iconic venue.
Haynes, who serves on the Australian Cricketers’ Association board, becomes the second player who featured in that historic match to retire, joining bowler Delissa Kimmince.
“It’s been incredible to watch the evolution of the sport, and just how much more support we’re receiving,” Haynes said.
“I think credit to Cricket Australia for really getting behind the women’s game and probably made some other nations across the world stand up and invest in their female teams.
“I feel very fortunate I’ve been able to play through the professionalisation of the game. There’s been lots of changes, not just in sport but in society as well.
“I think people are starting to respect female athletes a lot more. I couldn’t imagine a press conference for my retirement 10 years ago to be perfectly honest. I think that shows just how much the landscape has changed.”
Haynes’ departure creates a leadership dilemma within the Australian camp, with captain Meg Lanning recently stepping away from the sport indefinitely to focus on her mental wellbeing.
The national women’s side is not scheduled to play any matches until December, but it’s no certainty that Lanning would have returned by then.
Wicketkeeper Alyssa Healy has emerged as a leading candidate to take the mantle of Australian skipper until Lanning’s return, but there are several options within the national team.
“Behind the scenes they have been preparing for this moment for a little while now, so I think they’ve got plenty of options they can draw on,” Haynes said.
“There are some fantastic leaders within that group who don’t necessarily have the titles at the moment.
“(Healy’s) obviously done a little bit of an apprenticeship in state cricket. There’s some other players as well who are currently leading team as well in the female domestic space.”
ACA chief executive Todd Greenberg honoured Haynes’ contribution to the sport in a statement: “It is appropriate that someone who played the game on their terms, also bows out on them.
“Rachael Haynes’ contribution to an undeniable golden era of Australian cricket has been enormous. Her influence on the national and domestic stage is a credit to the person she is and is something that will benefit the game long after she plays her last game. Rachael has that great capacity in an athlete to want to make those around them better.
“I have been fortunate to have spent a lot of time with Rachael through her involvement on the ACA Board. Her knowledge of the game is as strong as anyone I have worked with, and she has an intrinsic understanding of the crucial role that women’s cricket will play in not only growing the game but also providing more opportunities for women throughout the country.
“I look forward to continuing to work with Rachael to ensure these opportunities are realised.”
Cricbuzz journalist Bharat Sundaresan tweeted: “In addition to all her wonderful achievements, Rachael Haynes’ presence in the middle always seemed to provide a warm safety blanket feel to the all-conquering Australian Women’s cricket team & that will certainly be missed.”
Former Australian captain Alex Blackwell posted: “Sad that we will not see Rachael Haynes in the green & gold or baggy green again. Rach has not only been one of the most valuable members of @AusWomenCricket, she has also been incredibly entertaining to watch. Clutch centuries, stunning catches, much loved by teammates.”
Cricket reporter Laura Jolly tweeted: “Can’t overstate the impact Rachael Haynes has had on the Aussie team and her influence on their incredible success. From a last-minute recall in Auckland in 2017, to Ashes captaincy, to Comm Games gold — it’s been a pleasure to follow her story. Enjoy retirement Rach!”
Australian teammate Heather Graham posted to Instagram: “One of the best! I’ll miss our net battles.”