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06 December 201518:23 By Karunya Keshav

ICC Women's WT20Q: Five young talents to watch out for

Joty, O'Reilly, Kalis, Gordon and Laomi have made a splash with their all-round contributions

ICC Women's WT20Q: Five young talents to watch out for  - Cricket News
Being able to claim to have represented your country in an international sporting event is a privilege few people enjoy, and especially not when they're barely into their teens. The teamsheets at the ICC Women's World T20 in Bangkok, however – and the choice of music over the ten days of the competition – offer an indication of just how many young girls are playing at a high level of cricket for a spot on one of international cricket's biggest stages.

The spotlight is firmly on the young talents, what with eight promising players from Ireland, Scotland, Netherlands, China, Thailand and Papua New Guinea to be offered a two-week placement with the eight Women's Big Bash League clubs as part of the WBBL Associate Rookie Program as well.

While that announcement is yet to be made, here are four young talents who have impressed for their teams so far.

Nigar Sultana Joty (Bangladesh)

The first person on the dance floor, the one breaking the ice with other teams, the loudest voice of encouragement from the Bangladesh dugouts, the chirpy presence behind the wicket – 18-year-old Nigar Sultana Joty tends to be at the centre of the action.

“A wicketkeeper is supposed to be like that!” insists the class 11 student.

She's taken six catches and pulled off six stumpings in the tournament – all of which she says are memorable – and her captain, Jahanara Alam is delighted. “Joty's done a very good job on the keeping side,” says Alam in her praise. “I hope she'll become the No. 1 keeper in this tournament.”

“She has performed well with the gloves, and she can bat,” adds Janak Gamage, the Bangladesh coach and former Sri Lankan cricketer. Joty was sent up the order to open in the final against Ireland, and top scored with 41, building a clever 74-run partnership before she was out in the 19th over.

Joty, who made her debut against Pakistan a few months before the ICC Women's World T20 Qualifiers, is looking forward to playing in India. “We've been waiting for this. Four months-six months, we've been practising for this. I'm the junior of the team, so everyone from the team has supported me so well.”


Lucy O'Reilly (Ireland)

Having made her Ireland debut at 13 and already played one international tournament, Lucy O'Reilly, now 16, isn't particularly a newbie in the squad.

“An old head on very young shoulders” is how her captain Isobel Joyce has described her in interviews. It's that maturity that allowed her to keep her head and hit the winning runs off the last ball in the final, for a thrilling one-wicket win.

“Arriving here, the conditions were alien to us. I didn't know what to expect with my bowling. But I definitely think that I've kind of adapted to the pitches, knowing what length to bowl and what challenges the batters. So I've been working hard and trying to make that consistent,” she says.

O'Reilly has six wickets with her medium pace in the tournament, three of them coming against Scotland in the semi-final that decided Ireland's qualification to the 20-over contest in India, when she cleaned up the tail just when they were trying to accelerate.

Against Zimbabwe in the group stage, she picked up one wicket, but was parsimonious in giving away runs, ending with figures of 1 for 7 from her three overs. In the opener against the Netherlands, she allowed the opposition batters just eight runs off her bowling.

“I guess that's what I'm like as a bowler. I mightn't take that many wickets, but I definitely try to lower the economy rate a bit. I've just been concentrating on bowling in an area which is hard for the batter to score runs off, which brings wickets maybe for other bowlers. We've talked about bowling in partnerships and I think I've helped that.”

“She's our No. 1 fielder and our go-to bowler when we need to tie things up and finish off the innings,” says Isobel. “It's unbelievable what she can do [at her age]. We'll be looking forward to seeing what she can do in India.”

But O'Reilly's role in the team is more than just taking wickets and keeping down the scoring rate: She's in control of the music on the team bus. And for the team's unofficial soundtrack, she's picked Chris Brown's Five More Hours.


Sterre Kalis (Netherlands)

The support staff in an international cricket team has its share of assistant coaches, managers, physios and analysts. Not often, however swollen the backroom might be, do you have an academic accompanying the players to make sure they do their homework. The Dutch girls may be representing their country in Bangkok, but “we were playing to qualify for a World Cup” is apparently no excuse back home for not spending two allotted hours on their studies.

In that Netherlands squad whose average age is 20, one of the brightest has been Sterre Kalis, the 16-year-old opener.

Kalis has batted with a composure that belies her years, making 122 runs from her five games, to go with two wickets and three catches. She's third on the list of run-getters for the tournament.

“I turned into an offspinner two months ago,” says Kalis with disarming confidence. “It's been difficult, because [before] I was a pace bowler. We had only one spinner in the team, and they said I could learn it in a short time.” Her skills, she says, she honed with help from her coach and watching games on TV.

“I've been playing cricket since I was five,” she says. “My father played cricket, that's the reason I started. My brother plays cricket for the Dutch Under-19, he's a wicketkeeper ... When I was young, I played with him.”

Not surprisingly, she looks up to another allrounder sharing her second name. “When I was young, I was watching Jacques Kallis. And now I can learn from his batting skills.”

Kalis has kept up with her studies, she insists, but, “We're here at a big tournament, and I'm focusing on the matches. When I'm back in Holland, I've to work harder!”


Kirstie Gordon (Scotland)

In the middle of an especially sweltering day in Bangkok, with Scotland getting ready to take on Ireland in the afternoon sun, Kari Anderson, Scotland coach and senior player, says: “I can't describe how different it is to playing back home. We never experience weather like this. If we play in 17º heat we think it's really warm and here it's been 35-37ºC, so it's a completely different ball game for us.”

And going out first to bowl on what is still an unfamiliar pitch with conditions changing every day, is, quite often, Kirstie Gordon.

A spinner opening the bowling isn't particularly common, but 18-year-old Gordon has slipped into the role for Scotland well. She has eight wickets from five games in the competition, including the 3 for 21 against Zimbabwe in the third-place play-off. She took the only Ireland wicket to fall in the semi-final between the teams, when she came on first change.

Both captain and coach see a bright future ahead for her. “She's been outstanding in my eyes,” says Abbi Aitken, the Scotland captain. “She's bowled under pressure, especially opening the bowling as a spinner is never an easy task. So credit to her.”

Adds Anderson, “I don't like singling people out ... but Kirstie Gordon, our spinner, has been outstanding, and Kathryn Bryce is a real special talent. Between them, they are two very, very exciting cricketers. And they've got a massive future in the game if they want it. And they're both only 18.”


Suleeporn Laomi (Thailand)

Young Suleeporn Laomi is a favourite among her captain, her team-mates and many of Thailand's cricket supporters. A petite girl, her legspin is potent, having netted her five wickets in the tournament.

Laomi, like several in her squad, came up through the ranks of Thailand cricket after her talent was spotted early on and she was offered a chance to study and play cricket through the centre of excellence.

She may be shy off the field and while facing the media, but doesn't appear to be intimidated by the occasion: her best has come against old foe China (2-16) and heavyweight Bangladesh (2-17).