With the 2017 season complete, we invited Danni Warren, Middlesex’s Head of Women’s Cricket and coach Sanjay Patel to share their thoughts on the summer.
Danni, how have you found your first season in this new position?
I’ve been in the role about six months - I came in just before the season started and it’s been all about making sure the plans Sanjay and Rory Coutts, Middlesex’s Assistant Head of Youth Cricket, put in place over the winter were carried out. It’s now time to think about the next phase, the next couple of years and try to make sure we build on the success of the latter half of the summer.
How have you found working together?
Danni: It’s been really enjoyable, absolutely fantastic. It’s the first year I’ve been involved in this part of the team, so it’s great to work with Sanjay who has had more experience in this area. Hopefully it’s proven almost seamless for the girls: we’re looking to do make their life as easy as possible. Emma, our manager, and Ollie, the strength and conditioning coach, have been crucial; without them the team could not take the field. Ollie was key to making sure the girls stayed fit and in the best conditions. A lot goes on behind the scenes to make it happen, match days are just the pinnacle and it’s good to watch everything come together.
Sanjay: From my point of view, it’s been great to have Danni to help on and off the field. I’ve known her for a number of years and we get on well. I know the girls appreciate having her on board.
What was your highlight of the season?
Sanjay: I think staying in the top division for both formats - our main objective after a disappointing start to the summer. I was pleased with how we bounced back after the first half of the season and the one-day losses. In the T20s we blooded some young players who had very little experience at that level, so it was a massive highlight to finish second. It was also frustrating, because we were thinking - if only we had not lost that game by one run and played better in Lancashire, who knows what would have happened. The young ones coming through is really exciting and shows our programme is very good; and the new Academy can only help that.
Danni: The highlight for me – not thinking about the on-field stuff – was pre-season, the girls spoke about their values and what the team should look like. Sanjay and I were slightly frustrated: we didn’t really see that in the season but that final weekend you could see it was there. It was a lesson for me that those things don’t come overnight and it showed in their performances. It also showed that what they said they would do, they actually did. Now we have the values the squad place in playing for Middlesex cemented, they are things we’ll continue to work on in the coming months and years.
What was the biggest challenge of the season?
Sanjay: The final game of the season - a must-win to remain in Division One.
Danni: Not having our full squad to pick from. There were a lot of reasons we couldn’t get our first choice XI on the pitch each match and that’s one of the challenges that comes with the amateur level of a professional sport; you don’t always have control of your players and they do have to balance their commitments. The frustration probably was that if we’d got our First team out in the opening matches of the season, then things could have been different. But it did give opportunities to young players who grabbed them with both hands; went out there, took wickets and scored runs. This showed us we’ve got plenty of people knocking on the door for selection and I suppose that’s the real positive that comes out of it.
Sanjay: What it did is it created was to create competition; I had not experienced this level of competition and it was a real selection headache for the final matches. If you are that person who might miss out, it should only make you more determined, so I think we’re in a good place.
What was it like watching the last game?
Danni: I sat there at one point and said to Emma can I just go to sleep but from the 20th over of the second innings I got a little more comfortable as we’d taken some key wickets and Beth had found the old arm. It doesn’t get any easier watching; when you’re not on the pitch there’s nothing you can do. You just need to trust the girls out there to do the job.
Sanjay: We spoke about trying to pull out our ‘A game’ for the weekend and I tried not to put too much pressure on the girls and just play our game, but the whole week was horrendous for me – I felt sick. I started feeling a bit better after beating Kent but then I knew it was going to be another day of trauma, but watching the girls and how well they played, and how they just pulled together as Danni said, playing for Middlesex and doing all those things we’d spoken about at the start of the season. The interesting thing, watching us play at the beginning of the season we were perhaps like rabbits in the headlights – a bit nervous and not playing as I know we can but at the weekend when we were under pressure they seemed really calm and just very clear in what they wanted to achieve individually and collectively.
We saw 2nd XI players come up and make their mark in the team. Who stood out?
Sanjay: Emily Thorpe was outstanding. Nancy Hughes was really good but didn’t get the opportunities to show her real skills with the bat and ball. However she was fantastic in the field and didn’t look out of place. Those were the two outstanding players for us. Emily was fantastic, especially as she’s only been bowling legspin for two or three years. She bowled all of her quota in the T20s and got hit a couple of times but nowhere near as badly as you’d think a leg-spinner might be. She wasn’t at that level in the winter but she’s worked extremely hard.
Danni: I think we forget Katie Wolfe hadn’t played before this season. She did very well in the games she was asked to bowl in. There are many positives, Iqraa Hussain and Kathy Morley both played their part, whether in the 50 overs or T20s and there are more players coming through. So some players might need to look over their shoulders in the coming months. The others in this year’s squad must see what they can do better to ensure they don’t lose their places.
What are your aims for next season?
Danni: It has always been our aim, to be in contention for titles. But that’s the nature of sport: you don’t always find yourself doing it so it’ll be no different next year. We want to go out and win every game and there’s absolutely no reason we can’t do that with the talent we’ve got in our squad and within the county.
Sanjay: For me, I love winning, I really do, and hate losing. But what I like to see is players develop. From a coaching point of view; are we getting better, improving year on year? I’m not going to say we want to win x amount of games, but we just want to do everything better.
Congratulations to both Sophia Dunkley and Gayatri Gole who picked up the Player of the Year and Youth Player of the Year awards respectively at this years End of Season awards.
Here are some words and stats for the two award winners..
Player of the Year – Sophia Dunkley:
This award was voted for by collating the players votes for most valuable player after every match. She scored 272 runs across the season at an average of 30.22. With a T20 top score of 77* off of only 58 balls and a 50 over top score of 63 in the final must win match of the season. She took 26 wickets in all formats at an average of 10.65 and economy of 3.60, taking 4/7 against Yorkshire in the 50 over championship and 4/24 against Somerset in the T20 competition. All of this despite missing a quarter of the season with a broken finger. Sophia has was a key factor in the teams strong finish to the season, securing their 50 over 1st Division status and finishing runners up in Division 1 of the T20 competition, her performances under pressure underlined her growing confidence and reliability as a player. Sophia also played an important role with the bat as Surrey Stars qualified for the Kia Super League Finals Day and finished the season with reselection for the England Women’s Senior Academy.
Youth Player of the Year – Gayatri Gole:
Having made her 1st Team debut for Middlesex Women at the end of the 2016 season, this summer not only saw her cement her place in the side but establish herself as a regular opening bowler. Taking 11 wickets in all formats for the 1st Team, at an average of 32.73 and economy of 4.79, her best haul came in the T20 defeat of Sussex in June taking 3/12. As well as her wickets she contributed key lower order runs, setting up match winning situations on more than one occasion, with her combination of hard hitting and electric running. In the 2nd Team she took 11 wickets at 12.18, with an economy of 2.43 and best of 3 wickets for 1 run against Essex and scored 96 runs. Gayatri has played for Middlesex since the age of 9, coming through the County Age Group sides and being part of the Emerging Player Programme.