Danni Wyatt: ‘It’s about getting those horrible thoughts out of your head’

Wyatt has become England’s key T20 player over the past year or so and attributes her improved performances in limited-overs cricket to relaxation and perspective

Danni Wyatt has been having trouble sleeping. Not that England Women’s best T20 player over the last year or so was being kept up worrying about her form. Before flying out to India for six limited-overs games over the next few weeks, Wyatt was staying near the National Performance Centre at Loughborough University. Unfortunately her digs were right next to the student union.

Still, the way Wyatt has played since a breakthrough innings in Australia a year and a half ago, she could probably not sleep a wink and still hit a match-winning knock. With England in heavy bother at 16 for four in the first T20 of the 2017 Ashes, Wyatt hit 50 off 36 balls and, even though England lost, she was pushed up to open. In the final game of the series she hit an extraordinary 57-ball 100 which levelled the Ashes.

A few months later she scored a 64-ball 124 against India, meaning at that stage she had England’s only two T20 international centuries (Tammy Beaumont joined her with 116 against South Africa in the summer). A few more key contributions followed and her transformation from decent middle-order bat who bowled neat off-spin to arguably England’s key T20 player was complete.

“It’s definitely up here,” she taps her head, when asked about what changed. “Being more relaxed. In the past I’ve probably not been as selfish as I should have been. I’d go out there and get a good 20 but 20s aren’t going to win you games of cricket. You’ve got to go out there and bat longer.

“It’s about not giving my wicket away. In the past, if I had a few dot balls, I’d start swinging away and get out. Now, if I’ve got a few dot balls, I’ll maybe just take a single. I’ve definitely matured a lot, which has been needed.”

Perspective is a big part of it, too. Some sportspeople like to give the impression that their game is the most important thing in the world, and that’s the only way they will perform. Wyatt takes the opposite approach. “As you get older, you definitely think: ‘It’s just a game of cricket.’ You see ball, hit ball. Whereas in the past I’ve been a bit stressed. I’ve felt like, if I don’t get runs, I’ll get dropped. It’s about getting those horrible thoughts out of your head. If you’ve got the belief of your captain and coach, you’ll be in a good place to perform.”

Wyatt has not had time to reflect on a successful, if relentless, spell of her career but she prefers it that way. “Personally I’m not that fussed,” she says, when asked if a lack of head space to contemplate developments is a problem. “I went from the World T20, came back to England for two nights and then straight out to Australia for the Big Bash. I like to think about the past, learn from it, move on, concentrate on the next challenge. It’s nonstop now but that’s what we want.”

A couple of recent disappointments will drive Wyatt, too. In November England barely showed up in the World T20 final: they posted only 105 (of which Wyatt contributed 43), a score Australia knocked off with 29 balls to spare. And then Wyatt’s Melbourne Renegades were beaten in the semi-final of the Women’s Big Bash, the ever-magnificent Ellyse Perry smacking a six in a dramatic super over to win for Sydney Sixers.

Australia are on the horizon again, touring England for the Ashes in the summer, but before that there are three ODIs and T20s in India, then the same again in Sri Lanka. Those 50-over games will give Wyatt another target: having established herself as one of the world’s top T20 players, she wants to do the same in ODIs.

“Coming in at five or six, on a good day I’ve got 15 overs to go, so it is kind of like a T20,” she says. “My job probably will be to bat with intent from ball one, like I do in T20. The ball will be a bit older, more fielders out, but that’s my goal: to be one of the best finishers in the world.” After the last year or so, one would not doubt her.

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Nick Miller

The GuardianTramp

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