INTERVIEW: Tash Farrant – I’ve Still Got England Aspirations

Speaking for the first time as a South East Stars player, Tash Farrant has told CRICKETher that her sights are set on an England comeback, 18 months after she was unceremoniously dropped from the squad by then-coach Mark Robinson.

Farrant, who was unveiled last week in the first tranche of what will eventually be 40 new domestic professional contracts in England, was appearing alongside fellow Stars signings Sophia Dunkley, Alice Davidson-Richards and Bryony Smith, and newly appointed Regional Director Richard Bedbrook, who told us that inking-in the former England player, currently living in Loughborough, was an easy decision to make:

“Tash is a Kent girl at heart, and when we initially chatted there was a desire for her to come back this way, so it was a no-brainer then that she’d be part of the group.”

For Farrant, losing her England contract at the start of 2019 was a bitter blow that came somewhat out of the blue: “When I got let go I wasn’t really expecting it, so for the last year and a half it has been tough.” There were even thoughts of packing it all in: “I potentially wanted to [give up], because if you get let go from the England setup, you’re living the best life, you’re contracted, you’re stable, but as soon as you lose it, there’s nothing to fall back on.”

But fortunately for everyone, those thoughts were short-lived: “I quickly switched out of that. For me, I just love the game – I would play in the back garden!”

Working with a new bowling coach – Scott Boswell, formerly of Lancashire and Leicestershire – has been a big positive for Farrant:

“I feel like I’ve got a new sense of my cricket life – I’ve been working at Trent College with Scott, who I cannot praise highly enough. We’ve been going back to the basics, and looking at some points of my action – it’s quite mundane stuff, but I’ve worked really hard, so hopefully we can get some games and I can get out there playing again with the girls, which would be amazing”.

Meanwhile Farrant’s new boss Bedbrook, who was formerly head coach of Surrey Stars in the KSL, is keen to support the ambitions of his players as far as they want to take them: “We want to help players make the next step up and realise the ambitions that they might have, which might be to play for England, but equally it might be to be a professional cricketer for as long as they can.”

For Farrant, the former is clearly very much on her mind, but she remains grounded about it: “I definitely have aspirations to get back into the England squad, so hopefully if we do get back out there at the back end of the summer, I can get out there and show what I can do. If it will happen, it will happen; but if not, then I’m happy to be a professional cricketer in the domestic game.”

NEWS: Harrison Throws Doubt On Elite Regional Cricket This Season

Less than a week after the confirmation of regional retainers for 20 new domestic professional cricketers in England, ECB Chief Executive Tom Harrison has cast doubts upon whether the ECB’s plans to go ahead with the regional “Centres of Excellence” competition this season can proceed.

Announcing the rescheduled start of the men’s domestic season on August 1st, Harrison had the following to say about the women’s game:

“Our strong preference is that the women’s new elite domestic structure starts this summer and we will work hard to ensure that happens.”

But… there was a but:

“For this to be achieved, brand new infrastructure still needs to be rolled-out, alongside imperatives we need in place when playing competitive cricket during a pandemic.”

“Our first choice remains to do everything we can to start this year and build on the fantastic momentum in the women’s game. In the event that proves impossible, we will explore other options for play to enable our women’s players to enjoy competitive domestic cricket in 2020.”

Those other options may well ironically be local county competitions, of exactly the sort the ECB tried to discourage the counties from organising, following the disbanding of the Women’s County Championship.

“Planning for the return of the women’s domestic game remains ongoing, but our commitment to women’s domestic cricket is unwavering and we look forward to sharing further news shortly.”

Hopefully we’ll get some answers soon.

OPINION: Connor & Morgan Firsts Must Not Be Lasts

In the words of our old friend Mike Selvey, it’s “been a good couple of days for women at Lord’s.” First Clare Connor was named as the next president of the MCC – the first woman in the club’s 200-year history to be so venerated; and then Beth Morgan became the first woman in 150 years to be voted an Honorary Life Vice-President of Middlesex County Cricket Club.

Both selections are welcome and deserved – Clare Connor, former England captain, now Managing Director of Women’s Cricket at the ECB; and Beth Morgan – World Cup winner and the only player (Middlesex or otherwise) to have featured in every season of the Women’s County Championship.

But following these appointments, what’s important now is that these firsts are not also lasts. It would be right for a man to follow Connor as president of the MCC, but after that the club must not then use Connor’s term as an excuse to say: “You’ve had your turn – now back to the men for the next 223 years!” There are plenty of deserving women out there  – let’s make sure the next next MCC president is a Claire or a Mel… not another Colin!

It’s going to be harder for Middlesex though, because the best female players won’t be playing for them any more – they will be playing for the London Somethings or the Eastern Somethingelses – teams that there are no guarantees will still exist in 20 years time, let alone going-on 200.

And sure, the players for the Somethings and the Somethingelses will get paid – probably more in a season than Beth Morgan did in her entire career – but they won’t have that history behind them, or the pride to wear a shirt that generations have before.

The recognition of Morgan and Connor, as well as Surrey and Kent’s recent efforts to acknowledge the histories of their great women players of the past by handing out belated, and in some cases even posthumous, county caps, should feel like the start of something.

It’s important to make sure it’s not the end too.

NEWS: 20 Players Awarded Regional Retainers

The ECB have announced the 20 players who have been awarded regional “retainers” ahead of the 40 domestic contracts which will now kick in later in the year.

The recruitment of the 20 players – who will be the first ever domestic female professionals in England, earning £1000 a month – has been driven by the Regional Directors of Women’s Cricket, with selections made on the basis of likelihood of representing England in the near future.

While Kathryn and Sarah Bryce are currently Scotland players, this suggests that either or both might hope to one day follow Kirstie Gordon in qualifying for England. Additionally, Beth Langston, Alex Hartley and Tash Farrant – who all previously represented England – are clearly still in contention for future selection.

The 5 holders of England “Rookie” contracts have also been allocated to regions but will remain on their England contracts until the 40 full-time contracts begin later in the year.

The 25 players allocated to a particular region are as follows:

North East:

  • Hollie Armitage
  • Beth Langston
  • Linsey Smith (EW Rookie)

North West:

  • Georgie Boyce
  • Alex Hartley
  • Emma Lamb (EW Rookie)
  • Ellie Threlkeld

West Midlands:

  • Eve Jones
  • Marie Kelly
  • Issy Wong

East Midlands:

  • Kathryn Bryce
  • Sarah Bryce

South West and Wales:

  • Dani Gibson
  • Sophie Luff
  • Fi Morris

South Central:

  • Georgia Adams
  • Tara Norris
  • Paige Scholfield

London and South East:

  • Alice Davidson-Richards (EW Rookie)
  • Sophia Dunkley (EW Rookie)
  • Tash Farrant
  • Bryony Smith (EW Rookie)

London and East:

  • Amara Carr
  • Naomi Dattani
  • Cordelia Griffith

OPINION: Multi-Day Domestic Cricket In England? Yes We Can!

After Lisa Sthalekar raised the possibility of bringing multi-day cricket back to the Australian domestic calendar, there has been some chat on social media about whether we could do the same in England, via the new Centres of Excellence which are hopefully set to take off later this summer… the “C” word permitting!

Unfortunately, it’s probably not realistic for the CoEs to play multi-day cricket – for the foreseeable future they will continue to be dependent on semi-professionals, who will make up 2/3 of their squads and who will need to maintain day jobs for the 10 months a year they aren’t playing in The Hundred.

But over the 8 CoE “franchises” we will nonetheless have 40 full-time professionals who won’t be playing for England, and for whom there would be time in the calendar to play multi-day cricket during the weeks of May, June and September.

We’ve got the players… we’ve got the time… we just haven’t got the teams!

So how about we make the teams, by bringing the 8 franchises together into two blocks for a North v South showdown, playing a series of three three-day matches, with full First Class status, across the summer?

It would help prepare the domestic players for playing Test cricket – it is completely ridiculous that new caps go into an Ashes Test having never played a “proper” First Class game (ie. not a “jumpers for goalposts” warm-up) in their lives.

It would also give those players who will never quite play for England something to aspire to be part of – a selection and representation opportunity below international level; and you never know – it might just uncover the odd diamond in the rough too.

It needn’t even cost much – we are already paying the players, and it doesn’t have to be played at Lords. [Although… now you mention it… Ed.]

If we want to make this happen, we can!

ECB… over to you.

VIDEO: The CRICKETher Vodcast – Social Isolation Edition – Episode 14

Raf and Syd discuss travel exemptions ahead of the World Cup in New Zealand; Rachel Priest’s retirement; the Cricket Australia cuts; England players returning to training; Katherine Brunt’s future; and, in an alternative universe, which England team would have been taking to the field against India next week?

Plus… via the magic of green screen we’re at a Kia Super League ground – but which one?

NEWS: Lauren Bell and Issy Wong In Line for England Debuts This Summer

The ECB have announced that 24 players will return to training on Monday 22 June in preparation for the proposed tri-series between England, India and South Africa in September, with uncapped fast bowlers Lauren Bell and Issy Wong amongst their number.

The announcement suggests that both Bell and Wong, who impressed for Southern Vipers in the KSL last season, could be in line to make their international debuts in September, should the proposed tri-series take place as intended.

With all 22 contracted England players also returning to training, it looks likely that the ECB are expecting the tri-series to consist of a high number of compressed fixtures, meaning that there will be more players in line for international duty than usual this summer.

The training sessions will take place under the same medical guidelines and bio-secure conditions as have been in place for England Men. The 24 players will initially train on their own before progressing to small group training, and they will be based across six different venues: the National Performance Centre, Loughborough; Emerald Headingley, Yorkshire; The Kia Oval, London; Bristol County Ground, Bristol; Chester Boughton Hall CC, Lancashire Cheshire; and the 1st Central County Ground, Hove.

Full squads for the series and a list of fixtures will be announced in due course.

The full list of 24 players returning to training is as follows:

  • Tammy Beaumont (Kent)
  • Lauren Bell (Berkshire / Middlesex)
  • Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire)
  • Kate Cross (Lancashire)
  • Alice Davidson-Richards (Kent)
  • Freya Davies (Sussex)
  • Sophia Dunkley (Surrey)
  • Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire)
  • Georgia Elwiss (Sussex)
  • Katie George (Hampshire)
  • Sarah Glenn (Worcestershire)
  • Kirstie Gordon (Kent)
  • Amy Jones (Warwickshire)
  • Heather Knight (Berkshire)
  • Emma Lamb (Lancashire)
  • Nat Sciver (Surrey)
  • Anya Shrubsole (Berkshire)
  • Bryony Smith (Surrey)
  • Linsey Smith (Sussex)
  • Mady Villiers (Essex)
  • Fran Wilson (Kent)
  • Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire)
  • Issy Wong (Warwickshire)
  • Danni Wyatt (Sussex)

VIDEO: The CRICKETher Vodcast – Social Isolation Edition – Episode 13

Raf and Syd discuss the appointment of Heather Knight as PCA Vice Chair; the return of Lauren Winfield, Amy Jones and Lisa Keightley from Australia; what the elimination of coronavirus from New Zealand might mean for the 2021 Women’s World Cup; and does women’s cricket need shorter pitches?

Plus… via the magic of green screen we’re at a match between Warwickshire and Middlesex… but where is it being played?

VIDEO: The CRICKETher Vodcast – Social Isolation Edition – Episode 12

Raf and Syd discuss Black Lives Matter, asking: does women’s cricket have a problem? While in other news they discuss the latest on WBBL, as Meg Lanning floats the idea of a return to double-headers; and Raf gives us an update on the English domestic contracts.

Plus… via the magic of green screen, we’ve hijacked the Sky Pod… but which English county ground have we driven it to?