Local girl, Slough-born Daisy Gardner has been bowling for Berkshire for 10 years now, having made her début as a 15-year-old in 2005. In that time she has become the mainstay of their pace attack, taking 62 County Championship wickets at an average of 31 – figures which actually understate her importance to the team these days, as the opposition often look to just “see her off” knowing that there are easier overs to come.
With her petite build Gardner isn’t your classic fast bowler, but she uses her stature to her advantage, delivering a piercing ball on a very flat trajectory that comes on surprisingly quickly. Now aged 25, and having never really been anywhere near the England setup, Gardner’s chances of ever playing international cricket are pretty-much zero; but she is definitely still one of the first players anyone should be looking to include in their Super League team.
However, there’s a problem.
As a first step towards a professional domestic setup, Super League intends to impose training requirements upon the players – 3 times a week, week-in-week-out. And it is true that this is needed – English domestic cricketers train a lot less than their Australian counterparts, and this might be starting to show in the results, as Australia sit-pretty at the top of the rankings in all 3 formats… albeit apparently self-appointed in Tests!
But players like Daisy Gardner – the County Pros of the women’s game – have always been amateurs, which means they need day jobs to pay the rent. They can’t just turn up to training “as and when”… and they sure can’t quit their jobs for a few hundred pounds in Super League match fees.
Of course there is an argument that: “If they really wanted to play, they could!” But in the real world, let’s face it they can’t, won’t and (to be honest) shouldn’t have to quit their jobs.
And yes, it creates a moral hazard to excuse them from training requirements. Younger players will ask why X plays when she doesn’t train; and then expect the same freedom not to train as they get older. It happens now in county cricket and it is a culture which we absolutely don’t want to carry over to the Super League.
But if the Super League right now really is going to be (as Clare Connor puts it) “the best verses the best”, then it needs its Daisy Gardners, probably more than its Daisy Gardners need it… and we need to find a way to accommodate that.
The imposing of rules by the ECB at the outset, is all very well but it is likely to challenge these fringe players (young and old) the most and force their hand on whether it is worth their while, be it due to work or education commitments – match fees will not be a certainty and being a squad player in all likelihood is not going to change things.
I for one would like to see the county many have a chance to benefit in the same way the elite have.