Dattani is the Joint Captain of the Middlesex Women’s Cricket team, playing both County and higher level cricket. She is part of the Kia Super League; serving on the impressive Surrey Stars Squad. It's then more fitting to say that her future dream of playing for England is a natural eventuality. “That's definitely the hope!” she told us. “I’d love to one day play on behalf of the country. I actually began my cricketing journey at the tender age of 10 – I’d play a lot with my brother in the back garden, and from there I joined a boy’s cricket team, up until the age of 14, before joining the local women’s cricket team – then known as Gunnersbury.” Dattani is currently coaching both girls and boys teams.
Reflecting back on her journey, with a specific focus on the gendering of the sport, Dattani said:"it's an interesting perspective. Cricket is a game of strategy where women and men do tackle differently. Although the male cricketers are known for hitting sixes, women use other methods to score runs and are yet evolving their technique to hit sixes, more recently as demonstrated by this year's World Cup. Ultimately, playing a good game and scoring the most runs is an adept mix of brains and brawn. It’s not always the answer to walk on and ‘just get it done.’ I think in that sense it would be beneficial for more young boys to hone their skill by playing within women’s teams as well as the other way around.” Indeed, this would not only help with representation but develop individual approaches to an already dynamic game: “who knows?” Dattani continued, “maybe one day that could even mean widely accepted and international mixed teams! Cricket in general is an underestimated sport too. There is this misconception that the game is somehow boring, with people perhaps standing around in a field. But there is a lot more to it than meets the eye. As well as lot of practical elements, you’ve got to stay constantly engaged, giving 100% of your concentration. It can be difficult to switch on and off; if you falter at the wrong moment, it could really harm you. There are all these little, mathematical mental games constantly happening. With the way cricket is changing at the moment, consisting of lots of short games – hitting sixes and fours – it’s actually gaining a higher-octane image, closer to that of football. It's great. in fact, I really don’t know any other way in which I could have been as confident as I am today. The game has helped a lot." And so, not only does Dattani demonstrate the power of cricket on the pitch, but as an invigorating life tool. The young sports star added: “cricket has uniquely contributed to my personal development, also incorporating the value of team work. It’s more than fun: it's an intelligent sort of escapism. It helps you adapt to new environments – year by year, I have pushed through each comfort zone to become who I am today.”
Naomi has been awarded Female Player of the Year for 2019.
What’s your Favourite part of the Joint Captain role?
Communicating between the players and the coach; constantly wanting to improve myself and others, and continuing to get better together.
What more could be done, especially within Asian families to get more women into sport?
There’s a lot of pressure from parents to focus on studies; as if that’s the only path going to a good future. It’s difficult to balance culture and sport. Young Asians will be obliged to go to a social event over practising or watching the sport in their spare time. I’m Keen to work with Asian girls to motivate and lower that dropout rate. There are barriers that need to be broken.
What are some of your favourite moves to experiment with?I
enjoy the competitiveness of the sport; the closeness of the game, and pressure and nerves that you feel. It’s good to play collaboratively with people too. I particularly enjoy batting and the whole structure of scoring runs, from starting at the bat and staying engaged the whole time. There’s so much time between the balls. I think being able to vary an intense concentration is a challenging, but finally rewarding overall experience.
What have been some highlight moments in your career?
Being selected to play in the Super League as your getting paid to take part in competitions doing a sport you really enjoy. Recently, also having the confidence to go to Australia and train in cricket out there for two seasons.
You also coach cricket. What are some of the most important ways in which you motivate your students?
I think ultimately, it’s good for young people to be able to look up to established people in the profession to be able to take the sports seriously. It’s definitely a career route with a lot of longevity, especially if you’re talented. You can go on to commentate or even become a presenter. For example, I really enjoy coaching girls as there aren’t enough women playing the sport. Girls are actually very responsive and bond together in female cricket. Having a female coach as opposed to a male one is very helpful as they can help advise for the best tailored career route. A female coach can also connect a lot differently from that of the boys.
Do you think there’s something more to the purer and primal confidence gained through sport?
Yes, you do go out and meet a diverse range of people and it’s not the same as in the office. That’s just the same team of people, everyday, 7 days a week.
Finally, who are some of your favourite players and what have been some of your best games to watch?
I love watching England versus Australia – they’re the best two teams in female cricket. For men , it’s definitely India versus Pakistan for men. On the female side, I like the player Charlotte Edwards. In terms of men I like the Australian cricketer, Mitchell Starc.