Cricket: Big step for Middlesex Women
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A big step for Naomi Dattani, but a bigger one for women’s cricket.
That’s the gist of the Middlesex all-rounder’s thoughts ahead of an historic day at Lord’s on Tuesday when she will be part of the first-ever Middlesex women’s team to play on the main square where they face MCC’s women in a T20 fixture.
It promises to be a massive day in the life of the left-arm seamer, but Dattani believes the game should produce ripples far beyond events within the Grace Gates.
“It’s 100 per cent a big step for women’s cricket full-stop,” she said.
“Lord’s is one of the best grounds in the world, so the fact we get to play here makes a mark onto other counties associated with major grounds.
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“It sends out a message saying, ‘hang on a second, Middlesex have put a women’s match out at Lord’s which is the biggest ground in the world, so why can’t we do that for our counties?’.
“Kent and Sussex get to play at their county grounds, but for Worcestershire, Hampshire and others it sends a message to say this is really important. We need to get our women’s and girls’ team out onto these big stages to give them exposure and to highlight this is something to be watched.”
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The match comes not only in the wake of last year’s Women’s World Cup triumph for England, but the naming of three members of that triumphant team, captain Heather Knight, Natalie Sciver and Anya Shrubsole as three of Wisden’s five ‘Cricketers of the Year.’ Shrubsole took pride of place on the front cover – another first.
Before we get too carried away though, Dattani, despite being very much on England’s radar, still has to supplement her on-field exploits with work as a High School PE teacher in a world where women’s county sides remain amateur.
But the 23-year-old member of the Surrey Stars Kia Super League team remains confident the women’s game is gathering momentum.
“The situation is definitely getting better with the Kia Super League happening,” she said.
“For me personally the last two seasons I’ve played in it have helped me a great deal. I go out thinking ‘I’m doing something I love and getting paid for it’.
“The next step is how can we support the counties. It will take a bit of time, but we are seeing changes already. There is coaching work out there, ambassadorial roles and other little things like travel expenses. All of that stuff is there.
“The next step obviously is having a contract and getting paid. It will happen – some are saying it will be five years from now or even sooner.”
For now, though, Dattani is simply looking forward to her big day – one she’s still pinching herself about.
“It feels pretty surreal actually – it still hasn’t really sunk in,” she added.
“I think we are all just going to soak it up, take it all in and just really enjoy our time out in the middle. I hope it might become a regular feature in the future for us.”