Naomi Dattani on importance of pro contracts, and difficulties of mixing culture with elite sport

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In a year of uncertainty, for a select few, December 2020 brought the opposite.

As we entered our third national lockdown, 41 women became cricket’s first full-time professionals at domestic level.

Almost seven years after England women were granted the same, the opportunity now presented itself to the tier below.

“I still haven’t seen what my 100% potential looks like. That’s what is so exciting,” says all-rounder Naomi Dattani, one of those 41, who has also signed for London Spirit in The Hundred.

“I’ve always been told I’ve got ‘potential’, but I’ve never been able to just give everything. Education would get in the way, or cultural pressures, or work.

“The Kia Super League [which launched in 2016] was when we first got the idea that things were shifting. We started getting six or seven weeks’ pay. Each time I considered stepping away, it felt like the wrong thing to do.

“It was like, actually, keep going, there are going to be more opportunities coming. Carry on with the ride.”

“Obviously that ride was still quite difficult,” continues 27-year-old Dattani, who by then was working as a school coach to supplement her playing income, while also competing against England’s full-time professionals.

“For about the last five years, I’ve been trying to train like a professional athlete, because those were often who I was playing against, but also work 20 to 30 hours a week on top of it.

“And I’ve just been knackered the whole time. So when I say I’m loving life now, I really am. I’m loving the fact I can train and sit down in between and…” the all-rounder pauses.

“… and rest,” laughs Dattani.

“It’s true! That’s been the biggest thing for me. It’s probably the one fact that has made the biggest difference in my cricket – that I’ve had the opportunity to rest and recover.”

Agencies

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