Thursday, May 23, 2024

Cricket Ireland: The Irish role in winning the biggest women’s cricket franchise tournament

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Photo Credit: Sportsfile

Jay Shelat spent five weeks with the Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Women’s Premier League (WPL) as their main analyst in what he describes as a “development opportunity which exceeded all expectations”.

So how did it come about and how did your day to day look like?

I have been attached to women’s cricket for five years now and I wanted to see what’s happening outside and understand the demands of modern-day cricket and bring it back to our team, which is still quite young.

I was actively on the lookout for professional development opportunities and when I was informed about potential opportunity to be part of RCB coaching team for 2024 season (led by Luke Williams – current head coach for RCB in the WPL and Adelaide Strikers in the WBBL) I decided to go for it. After interviewing and being offered the role, I helped the team during the auctions initially and then headed out on February 10, to link up with the squad.

We had two weeks of prep leading into the tournament. During that period, it was a case of getting to know the squad and helping the coaching team in the overall planning process.

Once the tournament started, I primarily focussed on sending opposition reports, assisting in pre match and post-match team meetings and generating key objective evidence that would help the coaching group and the captain in decision making at all times.

So, what were the key learnings that Jay took back from the WPL?

The experience on a whole was quite enlightening. The biggest learning was finding that balance of having context to what I was saying in cohesion with what the team wants to do. Given the experience in the side, I had to quickly find simple but effective ways to influence the game and ensure the team had a competitive advantage when they were on the field.

It also gave me an insight on how the worlds’ best players approach their game from a technical, tactical, mental and physical perspective – something I feel would hugely benefit our young Irish squad who are immensely talented and have all the qualities to be world class players in coming years.

And Jay’s favourite memory?

Winning the Cup is a no-brainer (their first title) but just being part of a championship side, especially what it meant to the players and the coaching staff. It was really emotional seeing videos of how people celebrated our victory. The win also belonged to our fans, that cannot be taken away. The franchise has a tremendous fan base, the support for the team was unreal and not something I had experienced before.

And did the experience meet his expectations?

The opportunity exceeded expectations. A lot of effort was put in by the RCB senior management, head coach and captain to create a positive and inclusive culture where everyone felt important and heard.

The demands and expectations in franchise cricket are at a different level … the expectation of fans and expectations from a commercial perspective. The franchise did everything to ensure we had the best experience overall. Our infrastructure was something I had never seen in the past. Everything was there before we asked for it, so fair play to the management who have invested so much on women’s cricket – and that’s what exceeded my expectations. There is so much money, effort, time, energy and resources being spent on growing the women’s game and ensuring it is consistent with the men’s game. Everything is there for you to do your best.

And having watched first-hand, Jay believes that there are players in the Ireland squad who are ready for a call-up to the WPL.

I feel some of our players, skill-wise, are ready to play at that level. All our players need is the opportunity to show their temperament in a high-pressure environment. With more fixtures against top ranked sides this year (both home and away over the next 6 to 12 months) and hopefully a chance to play in the 2024 T20 World Cup – it is a great opportunity for our players to perform against the best players in the world and send a message to say, ‘hey I’m here, I’m good enough’.

Overall, it would be brilliant for some our players to go out there and be part of a WPL squad, see how they train, how they recover. There are a lot of learnings to be had. It’s a win-win for everyone.

With the big auction coming up post-next season, and hopefully more teams being added, we could be 12-18 months away from seeing our first Irish player in the WPL.

Ireland Women play the second T20I of a two-match T20I series against Thailand today in Dubai: https://cricketireland.ie/matches/fan-guides/ireland-women-in-uae/

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