Fast-bowling all-rounder Kim Garth was always destined to play international cricket – both her mother (Anne-Marie) and her father (Jonathan) represented Ireland in their time, and Kim made her debut in 2010, aged just 14. Now 20 years old, she has played 53 internationals. Having scored 761 runs with the bat, at an average of 22, and taken 48 wickets with the ball, at an average of 24, she is an increasingly important cog in the Irish machine.
Following the World T20 qualifiers at the tail-end of last year, she was selected for the WBBL’s Associate Rookie program, where she spent six weeks in Hobart with the Hurricanes and their legendary coach Julia Price, who she credits with recent improvements in her batting:
“[Hobart] was pretty intense – it was training four or five times a week plus gym work [and] I got a good opportunity to work quite closely with Julia Price, who is a brilliant coach, so I did a lot of one-on-one with her on my [batting] technique.”
Garth admits that things “didn’t go so well” at the World T20 in India which followed – Ireland disappointed, failing to win a game, and only coming remotely close against Sri Lanka, where they fell 14 short chasing 129.
But this season has seen a change of tack for Ireland – they pulled out of the English Women’s County Championship and opted instead to focus their budget on two full international series, against South Africa, which finished last week, and Bangladesh later in the summer.
It is an opportunity Garth has seized – despite suffering from a side-strain which inhibited her bowling, she has been Ireland’s leading wicket-taker against South Africa, with 11 wickets; and their second-highest run-scorer, with 181 runs, including her highest international score – 72* in the 1st ODI. And Ireland impressed as a team against much higher-ranked opposition sharing the T20 series 1-1 and winning the final match of 4 in the ODI series.
(Yes, South Africa were weakened by the absence of leading players at KSL; but they still had Mignon du Preez, Trisha Chetty, Sune Luus, and Chloe Tryon… not to mention their new teenage batting sensation, Laura Wolvaardt, who made her first international hundred at Malahide.)
“Having the opportunity to play these ‘top nation’ teams in 6 games is absolutely fantastic,” says Garth. “You can see each game that we are improving and it does a huge amount for our cricket – we are definitely on the step forward.”
Having played almost exclusively Twenty20 cricket for the past couple of years, leading up to the World T20, coach Aaron Hamilton is now redirecting Ireland’s focus towards the 50-over game, looking to qualify for the World Cup in England next year.
“It is tough going from the Twenty20 mindset to 50-over, but we are making good progress,” says Garth.
Just 4 teams from February’s qualifiers will head to England next summer, so it won’t be easy; but can they do it?
“Absolutely!” replies Garth with confidence. “We will have to beat teams like Pakistan and Sri Lanka which I think we are 100% capable of doing. We’ve got a very young team but we are a hard working team and we are progressing, so hopefully we’ll get it right by the time February comes around.”