I'm ready for it whenever opportunity comes: England pacer Natasha Farrant

The left-arm seamer is waiting for an opportunity to make her World Cup debut and there is no better time for England to bring her in.

Published: 16th March 2022 01:22 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th March 2022 01:28 AM   |  A+A-

Natasha Farrant | AFP

Express News Service

CHENNAI: For any international cricketer, missing out on an opportunity to play in a World Cup is a big deal. Especially, a home event, which the team then goes on to win as the player watches from the stadium, must be difficult. Just ask Indian men's captain Rohit Sharma, Australian pacer Tayla Valeminck or some of the England cricketers like Kate Cross, Amy Jones, etc.

However, despite the disappointment, Natasha Farrant, the England left-arm pacer, has nothing but fond memories of the 2017 World Cup as she watched Heather Knight Knight lift the Trophy at the Lord’s with her family. “Obviously, I was disappointed, but I was only 20,” chuckles Farrant. 

“The squad, back then, was hard to get into; it is even harder now. So, when I look back, I have fun memories, to be honest, watching in the family box, then, to be able to celebrate with the team after, was pretty amazing,” she adds from New Zealand. 

Having broken into the England set up four years before the home ODI World Cup as a 17-year-old, Farrant’s dream of playing in one is in waiting for almost a decade. She played just one ODI against West Indies in November 2013 when she took one wicket for 14 runs from seven overs. From thereon, till now, the pacer has featured in just five more ODIs. 

In the T20Is, on the other hand, she was a regular member of the squad, but often couldn’t cement her spot in the XI. She was a part of the 2016 and 2018 T20 World Cup squads.

By 2019, the left-arm pacer found herself out of favour, losing her ECB central contract. It was a crucial point in Farrant’s career as that motivated her to be better than ever. It was the moment she had to decide which way her career should go from there. 

Determined to come back strong, she worked twice as hard. Although she loves the sport for what it is and is ready to play any standard of cricket, she realised that she wanted to get back to playing at the top level for England. “I felt like I had some unfinished business here,” she said.

For South East Stars, she took nine wickets in six matches in the inaugural Rachael HeyHoe Flint Trophy. Overlooked for the home series against West Indies, Farrant was picked for the New Zealand tour, where she played just one ODI and one T20I. To become a regular in the eleven, she had to put up performances that would make her selection inevitable. 

And that is exactly what she did in the 2021 edition of the RHF Trophy, picking up nine wickets from the first three matches, including a five-wicket haul. A call-up for the multi-format series against India followed.

 “I just had to work really hard on what I needed to do to up my game and just take ownership of it. It’s your game and your career; you got to take ownership of that. I think that is what I did in those couple of years.”

But, Farrant watched England dominate from the sidelines with other pacers in the side, performing well. She knew where she was in the selection order. Predominantly a swing bowler herself, who could bring the ball back into the right-hander, Farrant felt the need to add something new to her arsenal. And, The Hundred came as a blessing in disguise.

Playing for Oval Invincibles, a side that had Shabnim Ismail and Marizanne Kapp, Farrant was forced to play a different role. She often had to come as a first-change bowler, bowl in the middle sets and the death. Farrant led their bowling from the front, taking 18 wickets in 10 matches, as the Invincibles won the title.

“The Hundred for me was massive. If you are in the England team, and at the moment, I’m in the fringes, obviously, you don’t really get the string of games. Hundred was a place where I could really build every game. I had to work on different parts of it, being able to bowl with the older ball, my death skills.”

“With Anya (Shrubsole) and Katherine (Brunt) at the top, doing what they do, it’s really hard to break into (the England XI) as a new ball bowler. It was a good (opportunity) for me to work on that first-change and middle overs, being able to put my best foot forward with the death options as well... it's just adding extra strings to your base so that whenever an opportunity arises, and there is a place in the team, you have that skill set and hopefully, you can just slot in.”

In the New Zealand series that followed, she played in two ODIs and three T20Is, picking up six wickets across formats. The pacer’s relentless pursuit of excellence and consistency at every opportunity that came her way meant that she had earned her contract back after two years in November 2021. An Ashes selection followed, where once again, she hardly played and watched her side lose match after match.

But it didn’t affect her as the communication from the team management — coach Lisa Keightley and skipper Knight — had been clear. Lauding them for giving clarity on what is expected of her, Farrant said, “I prefer any feedback whether it is good or bad. I just want to be kept in the loop. It's just about making sure that I stay fit, being able to bowl long spells and bring energy to the field, training really hard in the nets just so that I’m ready for it whenever the opportunity comes.”

The biggest reward, however, came her way when she was selected for the World Cup. From watching England lift the trophy at the Lord’s five years ago, Farrant was where she originally wanted to be.

 Being in New Zealand with the England team for her first World Cup. The journey took close to nine years. She has an opportunity to make a difference and contribute to the team’s title defence. 

More than anything else, she just wants to enjoy the moment to the fullest whenever she gets to play through the course of the World Cup. “It’s really special to be a part of the 50-over World Cup. Coming a bit less frequently, and obviously having to wait that extra year, it’s just more special.”

“I just hope if I get an opportunity — they are quite hard to come by. Obviously, it is really hard to get your place in the XI. I just want to have fun and enjoy, because you know, with the last couple of years (referring to the pandemic), you just never know what is going to happen. So, you got to enjoy and take your opportunity when you get one.”

Farrant is the only left-arm seamer in this World Cup apart from Bangladesh’s Fariha Islam, who has played all three matches for her side so far. With England losing all their matches and going into a do or die clash against India, it would probably be the right time to bring the 26-year-old into their XI. For one, it would bring a bit of variety to what appears to be a rather monotonous bowling attack. 

Of course, one cannot assure that she will make an immediate impact or that her inclusion would result in an England win. But one thing is certain — whenever she takes the field this World Cup, Farrant will finally be living her dream; one that was nine years in the making.


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