Danni Wyatt: ‘CWG may help get more women playing cricket’

Danni Wyatt is a seasoned campaigner. An attacking strokemaker, she has featured in more than 200 hundred international fixtures for England’s women’s cricket team . In her long and illustrious career, Wyatt has also played in several franchise leagues.

She was recently in Dubai as one of the star players for Falcons in the inaugural edition of the Fairbreak Invitational tournament, which was broadcast by Eurosport India. The event, organised in conjunction with Cricket Hong Kong, is a six-team affair featuring players from all around the world.

In an interview with Sportstar, Wyatt spoke about the benefits of the tournament and the future of women’s cricket. As a ‘die-hard fan’, she also had a piece of advice for Virat Kohli, who has recently been struggling with his form.

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How was your experience at the Fairbreak Invitational 2022?

It’s been absolutely amazing ever since my touchdown here in Dubai. I think it’s completely different from every other franchise tournament. It’s a unique tournament, with lots of different people from loads of different countries. It’s an amazing concept, and hopefully it’s the start of something really big. You’ve got people from Japan, Nepal, Hong Kong, England, playing with and against the likes of Heather Knight, Laura Wolvaardt, Deandra Dottin – it’s a fantastic opportunity for them to see where they are at and how they might have to improve and see the likes of Dottin and see how they might need to improve to reach where she is.

While there have been quite a few franchise tournaments, there is limited participation of players from associate nations. But in the Fairbreak, quite a few players from the associate nations could show their talents. How much of an impact will this have on women’s cricket going forward?

It’s only going to improve the global game as well. They might see how much they need to improve to make that next step and to be on top of their game. It gives a great chance for someone to come in and absolutely smash it and you never know, they might get a Big Bash contract or a Hundred contract and they may get noticed and things like that will completely change their lives. I mean, you’ve got Sterre Kalis from Holland — a big player, a big batter. She’s been signed up with Yorkshire Diamonds in England. It’s just such a great opportunity for the associate girls.

Since you feature in a lot of franchise leagues, do you think that tournaments like Fairbreak, Big Bash and The Hundred have helped in developing a level playing field for women cricketers?

It’s massive for the women’s game. I was lucky enough to play in the first Women’s Big Bash in 2015. It was just unreal to have the opportunity to play with and against players from South Africa, England and Australia — they are the best countries in the world. For me, I benefited so much from playing against the likes of Ellyse Perry, Alyssa Healy and just seeing how they go about their training, how they are as a person and learning off the players. You’ve got the young players coming up who look up to us now and it’s important for us to give them feedback and they can learn off us. That’s like the case in this tournament, where the associate girls can really learn so much. Once they go back home, they can tell everyone how it was and it’s only going to benefit the women’s game. It’s going to grow the game massively.

Women’s cricket will be part of the Commonwealth Games this time. How much of a boost is that for the game?

Massive. I’m really excited to play my first Commonwealth Games, along with Heather Knight, Sophie Ecclestone. It will be really good for the game to show it to the world. Everyone’s going to be watching the Commonwealth Games, so globally it’s going to be massive for the game and hopefully get more women playing cricket.

What was the most memorable experience of the Fairbreak? Going forward, what’s your expectation from the tournament?

It’s been absolutely amazing. To have the opportunity to play at the Dubai International Stadium, where the IPL was held, was a massive step in the right direction. It’s a good wicket, it’s a good test between bat and ball.

Hopefully, this is the start of big things for Fairbreak. They are talking about having the next one in Hong Kong, which is where it was supposed to be this year but because of quarantine rules it was moved to Dubai. It will be amazing to see if and how the associate players have improved or not, after being in this competition and having seen all of us play to get to where we are.

Next year, the U-19 Women’s World Cup will be played. How much of an impact will the tournament have on the game?

It’s amazing that they are finally doing a U-19 Women’s World Cup. In England, the youngsters are really coming through. It will be great for the world to see how many youngsters are coming through the ranks, what the youngsters are like on the Aussie team and on the India team. They are the future of the game and it will be massive for the women’s game.

Several teams — including India and England — will go through a transition in the next few years. What should the teams do to ensure that the next line-up is ready? As far as India is concerned, do you think that bench strength is ready?

I know there are so many youngsters coming through in India. You’ve got Shafali Verma, for example — she just came out of nowhere and went and smashed loads of runs in the first IPL Challenge. In England, you’ve got Sophia Dunkley, and they are all in their early 20s. They just go out there without any fear and it’s actually scary to see how good the youngsters are already.

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Like you said, it will be amazing to see what it’s like in a few years’ time, because these girls have got a great opportunity now that they are playing in the Hundred, Fairbreak, IPL (T20 Challenge), and domestic cricket back home.

They are just getting great opportunities to play with players of international standards. They are looking at what they need to do to improve, and they are just working really hard and ultimately, the youngsters coming through look up to us and they want to be us. So the future is looking very bright for women’s cricket.

You spoke about the IPL. Have you watched the tournament this season? The BCCI plans to launch a full-fledged women’s IPL next year. What are your thoughts on that?

I love the IPL and I never miss many games. It’s on at a good time back in England, it’s on at 3pm. Everybody loves the IPL and I’ve been waiting for a women’s IPL for a few years now and hopefully if all of this talk is true and there will be a full-fledged women’s IPL starting next year, finger’s crossed. (I hope) they pick me as well and I’d love to play a part in the first women’s IPL. That would be just amazing.

You have been a big admirer of Virat Kohli, but he has been inconsistent over the last few months. How do you see this because every cricketer goes through such a rough patch…

Everybody goes through patches of good and bad. Virat is a quality player and he is one of the world’s best batters and always will be. He just needs to find a way to come out of this patch. He just needs to go away, have some time away from cricket.

I know of guys in bubbles, which aren’t easy. It’s mentally tough being in a bubble. I myself have been in a bubble so I know what it’s like, it’s definitely not easy.

Virat is a class player, I think he just needs to maybe go back to basics and do some drills. A couple of years ago, I saw a video of him on YouTube, where I just watched him train, and he just works on full face of the bat, hitting drives and when you come into a match, the instinct takes over and you naturally hit over extra cover, you naturally hit over mid-on. I definitely back him to come out well. He just needs to get his head down and hope for the best.

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