It has been quite a year for Priyanaz Chatterji. Having helped Scotland to the semi-finals of the ICC World T20 Qualifier and Surrey Women to Division One of the ECB’s fifty-over competition, the talented seamer was rewarded with a place at last month’s ICC Women’s Global Development Squad camp in Australia. Now, back home after an intensive few days of cricket Down Under, the twenty-five-year-old is keen to put the extra knowledge she has gained into practice.
“It was a great experience and I feel very lucky to have been able to go out there,” said Priyanaz. “Playing alongside new team-mates against unfamiliar opposition and in different conditions gave all of the squad plenty of new things to think about. The coaching staff and Australian players and coaches we interacted with were very clear that they wanted us to be open in trying new skills, and because the stakes weren’t quite as high in the matches relative to a lot of those that we play we all felt a bit more confident in doing that. I definitely feel like I learnt a lot.”
The second edition of the ICC initiative gathered together an eleven-strong squad from across the Associate world. In a programme developed in partnership with Cricket Australia and the Rebel Women’s Big Bash League, players from the Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, Thailand, Vanuatu and Zimbabwe joined Priyanaz to compete in five matches against WBBL teams. There was further Scottish involvement, too, as Steven Knox was appointed Head Coach of the team to work alongside ex-Australian international and WBBL coach Julia Price.
“Although we only won one match, and that was when we played as a joint Sydney Thunder/ICC team, we played some good cricket at times during the week,” said Priyanaz. “As a group we gelled really well against some extremely tough opposition.
“There were challenges in bringing together a group of players from different countries who hadn’t played with each other before but we began to better understand each other’s games the more we played together. It was a really great group of people to be involved with and I really enjoyed playing alongside them.”
The squad also took part in a leadership programme through the ICC Global Leaders Academy. Launched in 2017, the programme aims to develop the leadership skills of its participants both on and off the field.
“It was interesting from a sports psychology perspective, understanding how best to make people and teams tick,” said Priyanaz. “Things around having players feel that they are part of a community, that sense of belonging, feeling that they have a choice in how they train and play, things like that. A lot of the girls on the trip were captains – I’m obviously not, but it was still a very useful day of learning.”
At the beginning of 2017, Priyanaz was juggling the demands of a full-time job in London with a commute to Scotland every other weekend to fulfil her commitments with the national team. Since then, however, much has changed for the better.
“Monday to Friday I would get up in the morning and go to the gym before work,” she said. “I would then train a couple of times a week after work with a couple of friends or do club training if it was on. And then I would travel back to Scotland every fortnight for squad training as well.
“I was trying to access as much cricket as possible but it was hard to find places to train, and with all the travel back and forth to Scotland it was pretty tiring as well.
“I really wanted to get involved with the county set-up in London if I could, and when I came across an ad for trials at Surrey I got in touch. The then-Head Coach of Surrey Women, Jeremy Greaves, invited me to a net session at the Oval with two or three others and I’ve been involved with Surrey since then. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to play for them in the fifty-over competitions both in the 2017 season and then again over this past year.
“Because I now have access to that opportunity to train near where I live my travelling schedule is far less hectic than it used to be. I’m training more than I was but I’m only travelling up to Scotland maybe once a month now which is a lot less tiring.
“I’ve also gone down to four days a week at work which has been very helpful. My employers have been really flexible which makes balancing training and work far more manageable. I definitely feel less burnt-out than I did last year and that can only help my game too.”
And with the national side’s eleventh place finish in the World T20 confirmed by their position in the recently-published ICC rankings – the highest of any Associate nation –the effect of the growing level of experience within the squad is ever more apparent.
“It’s a really exciting time for the team,” said Priyanaz.
“To an extent we were of course disappointed in coming third [in the WT20 Qualifier] when the top two teams went on to the World Cup, but we did still manage to put in some good performances even though we had lost a number of big players in the lead-up to that tournament. To finish third, which is where we were ranked going into the tournament, was a decent achievement in the end.
“We’re in a good place. As well as the structures we have in place in Scotland there are now a lot of extra influences coming in from elsewhere. Some of the girls are studying at Loughborough or training with other county teams, others are taking up opportunities to go and play abroad, in New Zealand or with the ICC Rookie Programme, for example, and all of that is contributing to the squad becoming more professional within a high-performance set-up.
“All that experience is benefitting the whole group and it’s definitely pushing us in the right direction.”