News, Culture & Society

WORLD OF CRICKET: David Willey seeks happy end to hazardous journey after squad snubs

David Willey has experienced more ups and downs than most since being left out of England’s triumphant World Cup squad at the 11th hour to accommodate Jofra Archer. Maybe now, though, he will finally get his shot at redemption.

It seemed Willey was very much back in the England white-ball picture when he returned to a weakened squad against Ireland last summer and promptly claimed the player of the 50-over series award.

Yet far from being the catalyst for a fresh international start it proved a false dawn for Willey when he was then left out of the white-ball series against Pakistan and Australia.

David Willey is looking to get a shot at redemption after several squad snubs for England

Willey is in Eoin Morgan's squad for the white-ball T20 matches with Sri Lanka next week

Willey is in Eoin Morgan’s squad for the white-ball T20 matches with Sri Lanka next week

That did not stop him being named PCA one-day player of the year, an award Willey greeted by making wry comments about it not being enough to stop him being dropped again in his acceptance speech.

Not that we would have been made aware of that by an official video of the Zoom presentation that was cut short after he had thanked the sponsors.

So Willey made his point instead by posting the full version of his speech on Twitter, saying: ‘Take it there wasn’t enough air time for the last few seconds of my video…’

When Reece Topley was preferred as England’s left-armer in winter squads to face South Africa and India, Willey’s international days again looked numbered.

England was snubbed for Reece Topley (above) in the squads against Pakistan and Australia

England was snubbed for Reece Topley (above) in the squads against Pakistan and Australia

Willey was also an 11th hour swap out for Jofra Archer (above) in the 2019 World Cup squad

Willey was also an 11th hour swap out for Jofra Archer (above) in the 2019 World Cup squad

But a candid character who admitted in an interview with Sportsmail last year that he contemplated retirement after his World Cup snub is back in place of the injured Topley for both the Twenty20 and 50-over squads to face Sri Lanka.

And captain Eoin Morgan intimated on Tuesday he will be given the chance to push for inclusion in October’s T20 World Cup.

So maybe this time he won’t be the one to get a tap on his shoulder when Archer returns for England’s next crack at a world title. It would be a happy end to what has been an often hazardous journey for Willey over the last two years.

Being at Bristol for England women’s Test against India was to experience one of cricket’s ‘I was there’ moments. For it meant seeing the Test debut of a teenager with the ability to transform the women’s game.

It is no exaggeration to say Shafali Verma could do for women’s cricket in India what her hero Sachin Tendulkar did for the men. She is a once in a generation talent who appeared to be performing on a higher level than anyone else at Bristol.

Verma, at 17 already the No 1 ranked T20 batter in the world, proved equally adept with the red ball in making 96 and 63 in what was a hugely positive endorsement for more women’s Test cricket. There was style and power in her attacking shots but she also showed she could defend as India batted throughout the final day to earn a draw.

England took on India in a very rare women's Test match in Bristol last week

England took on India in a very rare women’s Test match in Bristol last week

It is hugely exciting to imagine what Verma could do for women’s cricket. She is the perfect role model to attract thousands of Indian girls to the game and the knock-on effect of that in the most cricket-mad country in the world could be a game-changer.

Verma has had quite a journey to get where she is now. She hails from a small town in the conservative northern state of Haryana where female infanticide is still a significant issue. At nine she cut her hair short so she could play cricket with the boys in Rohtak.

But she always had the support of her cricket-mad father Sanjeev, who once taught himself how to bowl left-arm spin because Shafali was short of practice against that type of bowling.

She hardly needs the practice now. England and India have six white-ball matches left in their multi-format series, starting back at Bristol on Sunday, for Verma to further showcase her talent. Meanwhile the Birmingham Phoenix have pulled off a coup by attracting her to the Hundred competition next month. The potential is limitless.

Shafali Verma could do a great deal for women’s cricket in India after her Bristol displays

Shafali Verma could do a great deal for women’s cricket in India after her Bristol displays

There is an even younger cricketer than Verma making a mark in domestic cricket, with a rich family heritage in the game.

Archie Lenham, at just 16, became the first player to appear in the T20 Blast born after the format’s inception in 2003 when he made the first of what has so far been four appearances this season for Sussex.

Quite an impact the leg-spinner has made, too, taking three for 14 in his second match against Hampshire in front of the Sky cameras, including dismissing Tom Alsop with his first ball, and pulling off a stunning running catch to claim Jason Roy against Surrey. 

Lenham certainly has a name to live up to. His dad Neil hit more than 10,000 first-class runs for Sussex in the Eighties and Nineties and grandfather Les made more than 300 appearances for the county and amassed almost 13,000 runs.

Lenham will get more chances. Sussex co-coach Ian Salisbury is a big believer in giving youth its chance, saying: ‘Don’t put barriers on kids. Don’t think they cannot do it because they’ll believe they can.’ Lenham the third is certainly one to watch.

Archie Lenham became the first player to play in the T20 Blast that was born after 2003

Archie Lenham became the first player to play in the T20 Blast that was born after 2003

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk