Q&A: How Doncaster Town Cricket Club's ladies have gone from beginners to winners

Doncaster Town Cricket Club’s ladies team have come a long way in six years.

Wednesday, 14th October 2020, 1:29 pm
Doncaster Town Cricket Club’s 2020 ladies team won the South Yorkshire League softball competition which was organised as a result of Covid-19

We caught up with captain Michelle Styring to discuss her passion for the sport, Town’s progress and her views on the state of women’s cricket in this country.

What got you into cricket and what do you enjoy most about it?

I started playing six years ago when the ladies section of the club was founded.

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Emma Henderson takes strike for Doncaster Town

A small group from the hockey section were talking about doing something in the summer season and someone suggested cricket. I was already playing rounders and was asked if I fancied giving cricket a go.

For me it was the challenge of starting a new sport that got me interested. I’d practiced at school with the boys as a child but was never allowed to play because it was a ‘boys sport’.

I really enjoy playing with a group of women who began as non-cricketers but with hard work and dedication have become cricketers in their own right.

What can Doncaster Town Cricket Club offer any girl or woman interested in taking up the sport?

Michelle Styring in action for Doncaster Town’s ladies team

At Doncaster we cater for all ability levels, from beginners to competent cricketers.

We have started a softball cricket team this year known as the Shield Maidens. They have fun and they work hard in training to improve – and they’ve had a successful season.

Our hardball team is also a friendly group but there is a definite competitive edge in all of us.

In five full seasons we have progressed from not winning a match in our first season to twice finishing runners-up in the league. That is some achievement for a group that started as absolute beginners and shows the commitment we have put into improving our game both as individuals and as a team.

Doncaster Town’s Shield Maidens softball team have enjoyed a successful 2020.

The club has supported us from the start but even more so over the last three years. We are all part of the club – not simply a stand-alone arm of it – and we have a player, Ali March, on the committee who does a great job of making sure the women’s game gets the support and recognition it deserves.

We play against some clubs that are only allowed to use the astroturf wicket or play around the men’s fixtures but at Doncaster Town the only team that takes precedence over us is the men’s first team which shows how important the club views the women’s contribution.

What impact did Covid-19 have on this season?

The normal league did not go ahead for obvious reasons but we managed to play some cricket albeit in a very different format. We played softball rules: eight-a-side, batting in pairs.

It felt like a step back for us at first but we just wanted to play and have adapted to the format and taken the positives. Players who didn’t previously have the opportunity to bat and bowl have had a chance this year – and we won the league!

Why would you encourage young girls to give cricket a try?

I think cricket is seen as boring by many and a lot of girls playing sports like football and hockey think it is too slow for them. I do get that but it really isn’t. Cricket is a combination of endurance, speed and concentration.

You don’t always have the ball but you have to be on your toes for that chance that’s coming your way, whether it’s smashing a four, taking a smart catch or running someone out with a direct hit. It’s a great feeling whenever you achieve any of these.

I’d encourage any young girl to give it a go and starting with softball is a great way to get into it. Once you get the basics you can move onto hardball when you feel ready for it.

We have a 12-year-old playing in our hardball team and girls aged 11 and eight training with us but it would be great to get more girls involved.

How do you view the structure of women's cricket in this country and are you confident the sport will continue to go from strength to strength?

Covid-19 has had more of a negative effect on women’s cricket than the men’s. Getting the men playing again seemed to be the priority. You only have to look at international level to see that but it has also been the same at grassroots level.

Our men’s teams started playing competitively three weeks before we did. It was disappointing that it took so long to get something sorted for the women.

Women’s cricket has been flying over the last few years and that has seen a massive increase in interest but it has been a challenge to decide what to do with that interest.

It seems softball cricket has been decided as the way forward and a lot of funding has gone into getting players involved and leagues set up. That’s great but it does feel like the regional hardball leagues have been forgotten.

There are hundreds of women playing hardball cricket but the league structures are taking a back seat to softball cricket, county hubs and international cricket. This is pushing girls into playing in the lower men’s teams rather than the women’s team at clubs because they know they are going to get a decent competitive game.

I definitely think something needs to be done to promote the regional hardball leagues.

We also need more coaches who understand women’s role in the sport and support them to be the best they can be. There is a shortage of quality coaches.

The good ones tend to be playing the game and are therefore understandably unable to fully commit to the coaching side.