Author Topic: Wyatt prepared for battle  (Read 1265 times)

Offline John

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2034
    • View Profile
Wyatt prepared for battle
« on: December 29, 2010, 06:36:14 AM »
Cricket: Wyatt is prepared for Ashes battle

IF Danielle Wyatt's grandma had her way, the young cricketer's sporting path would have taken her to Wimbledon, rather than the WACA, in Perth.
The financial rewards of a professional tennis career would undoubtedly be greater, but even nana Joan must admit, in hindsight, that her grand-daughter hasn't done too badly.

The 19-year-old, from the Westlands, in Newcastle, departed today for England women's Ashes tour Down Under, as she writes a new chapter in her meteoric rise to stardom.

A one-day international debut against India in Mumbai in March, a Twenty20 World Cup place in May, plus series against New Zealand and Sri Lanka have all been crammed into the off-spinning all-rounder's breakthrough year.

Now she is ready to step on to the turf at legendary venues like the WACA and the Melbourne Cricket Ground to take on the Aussies in three one-day internationals, five Twenty20s and a one-off Test during the month-long tour.

Her achievements are a source of immense pride for dad Steve, aged 51, mum Nicola, 47, and brothers Ryan, 22, and Max, 12.

And they are a far cry from when an eight-year-old Danielle first clapped eyes on a cricket bat.

"Ryan played cricket at school and went on to join Whitmore Cricket Club juniors," recalled Steve, himself a former county football team-mate of ex-Stoke City players Lee Chapman and Mark Chamberlain and a local cricketer with Wolstanton.

"Danielle used to come with me to take Ryan to practice, and one day she joined in. The coach, Aidy Hicken, must have seen something because he asked her back.

"A few weeks later, Whitmore were short for a junior match and they asked Danielle to play.

"I was a bit wary initially because of her age and the fact they were playing with a hard ball.

"She couldn't hit it off the square when she first started, but she could bowl a bit.

"Everything has developed from there and she's hardly missed a match since... except when she fell out of a tree at the age of 10 and broke her wrist and ankle."

Steve may have boasted the sporting prowess in the Wyatt family – although Danielle's great grandfather represented England at lacrosse – but it was mum Nicola who was charged with kitting out her daughter for the challenges which lay ahead.

"I took Ryan to get some cricket whites," explained Nicola, who works as a dental care professional in Shelton, "and Danielle had a tantrum because she wanted some as well.

"I even had to ask the shop assistant if they sold girls' cricket whites – I didn't know they wore the same kit.

"We brought them home, and I had to turn them up so Danielle could fit into them.

"I presumed cricket would just be a fad which would blow over. I'd taken Danielle horse riding, bought her dolls and tried to make her wear dresses.

"Even her grandma wanted her to play tennis, but she was having none of it. Everything was just cricket from then on.

"I can still remember Danielle and Ryan playing cricket in the street when we lived in Hartshill."

Older brother Ryan's cricketing career was short-lived as he discovered a passion for music, but Danielle's continued to go from strength to strength, first with Whitmore.

She was handed county recognition at age group level, but it was in 2004 when the penny dropped with her parents they might have a special talent on their hands, and they decided to back and support her as much as possible.

In that season, Danielle became the first Staffordshire girl to score a century at under-13 level when she reached three figures against Wales.

Not content with that, her next two innings saw scores of 118 not out and 100 not out against Shropshire and Herefordshire respectively.

"When Danielle started to play for the county, I think it is fair to say Nicola was questioning it because it takes out your whole day and can impact on family time," said Steve, who runs his own embroidery and print business.

"We were travelling all over the country, and it is hard work and long days. But those three innings when she scored consecutive hundreds made me think that she had something about her.

"Danielle played in an under-13 game at Oundle one day and hit her first-ever six.

"A man came up to me, not knowing who I was, and said: 'That girl, she can play. What's her name? I'll watch out for her because she'll play for England one day'.

"Danielle was always one of the better players, so had pressure on her. But I knew the acid test would come as she got older and stronger."

The former pupil of St Peter's High School in Penkhull continued to thrive on the pressure and expectation thrust on her young shoulders.

At the age of 14, she was opening the batting for the Staffordshire women's side, and was selected to play in a Super Fours tournament, which brought together the best women players in the country.

In 2006, aged 15, she played a starring role with the ball as her wickets helped England under-21s triumph in the European Championships in Holland.

They retained the title a year later, and Danielle was voted one of the three best players in the tournament.

A talented footballer to boot, Danielle – a striker who trained with Stoke City Ladies Academy and played for Langdale – even rejected the advances of Arsenal Ladies, Birmingham and Coventry to pursue her cricket career.

England Academy recognition swiftly followed, and in March this year, Danielle was named in the senior women's side for the trip to India.

She scored a match-winning 28 not out, off just 25 balls, on her one-day debut to guide England to victory under the watchful eye of one very proud father, who, according to Danielle was too nervous to even watch.

That remains her sole one-day appearance to date, but she has subsequently cemented her place in the country's Twenty20 team.

"We have covered a lot of miles over the years, but it has been a fantastic ride," added Steve.

"What Danielle has achieved is amazing, but the pinnacle was watching her make her debut against India. It made everything we'd done and sacrificed worthwhile.

"I remember when she was just starting, having to fork out money for one-to-one coaching sessions with Dave Ferris (now Leek coach) on the squash courts at the Michelin.

"It seems surreal now, but back then she was just hitting a static ball to develop her batting technique. Dave was instrumental in setting her on the right path – she owes him a lot."

Mum Nicola provided the family support for the Twenty20 World Cup in the West Indies in May, while both parents, plus younger brother Max – himself a Staffordshire age-group cricketer – formed the fan club for the recent tour of Sri Lanka.

Danielle's grandparents – Peter, Elaine, Ray and Joan – have also been avid supporters of her cricketing exploits, following her at club, county and international level.

But the demands of family and work life have left the Wyatts in limbo as to whether they will travel to Australia for the Ashes.

"I'm amazed Danielle has got as far as she has in such a short space of time," added Steve. "She has had a huge amount of help from coaches such as Andy Grice, Dave Ferris, Dave Ford, Alan Hill and Leigh Reece over the years, although she has still had to go out there and perform.

"She is still young and has a lot of time on her side.

"We are not sure about going to Australia for the Ashes because there are tours to South Africa, India and Sri Lanka in the next two years, so we have to prioritise.

"Hopefully, she will be involved in those trips too."

But, for the moment, Danielle has her sights firmly set on helping England's women retain the Ashes.

From Whitmore to the WACA... that's not a bad journey for the girl from the Westlands. Even nana Joan would be proud.