We caught up with Ansty Ladies CC’S Dave Burt to talk not only about the club, but about the state of women’s cricket in general, and what can be done to engage more women in this marvellous sport.

KUDOS: We spoke to you back in 2017 and at the time you were playing your first season in the WCSL Premier Division after a succession of promotions. At the time you said you lacked experience at that level, and finished 4th from 6. How’ve you been getting on since?

Dave Burt: Since winning promotion to the Premiership in 2017 we have made steady progress. The league has been split into a T20 section followed by 50 over section.

We play two T20 games and two 50 over games against each team, all the points gained are combined to crown an overall League champions.

The T20 section of the season clashed with Women’s Senior county cricket meaning Ansty and the other clubs in the league would lose a large number of their players.

We, as a club, would be without seven senior players over the period for these T20 matches, and it means we struggle to make up positions in the combined table later in the season.

Since the recent restructure of county cricket for the coming season, reducing the County games played to four weekends, and the introduction of the 100 competition, our league is the highest level of club cricket we can play in the south of England.

It comes at a price with many away games taking 2-3 hours travelling there and back! In 2018 we finished 5th after the T20 league and managed to finish 3rd overall. In 2019 we finished 2nd after the T20 league and 2nd overall.

I, for one, am hoping in 2020 we finish 1st after the T20 league and 1st overall!

And how are you shaping up for the season ahead?

We have players not only from Sussex, which is a big county, but from other counties such as Kent.

Many of our players are senior / junior county players so clashes with these players schedules means our winter training is often disjointed. It may be the case that I don’t see some players from September when the season ends until the first game or just before the following season.

With the players we have, I feel, we will be very competitive this coming season. We are still a very young squad, and small in numbers, but as a team I back their ability every single game. If we go out and perform to our best in every game then I can ask no more win, lose, or draw.

You run three ladies teams – can you tell us how that structure works?

Where we are based we are surrounded by a number of other clubs all running women’s sections.

Experience tells me there is always going to be competition for these players, so we have to offer the best selection of cricket we can to attract new members and keep our existing ones.

Also we have a lot of talented young cricketers coming through that we cannot always offer enough 1st XI cricket to, so we must as a club, offer them opportunities to play and have that pathway through to 1st XI cricket.

We have invested in a core of female level 2 coaches who all play for the club. This gives us the ability to have our young developing players play cricket with and alongside these coaches in our development teams.

We run a Sunday 1st XI in the WCSL Premier Division, and we run two development teams (9 a side) midweek in the local Sussex leagues.

Keen to provide cricket for ALL women and those of any ability, this year we are starting a ladies Softball team where the emphasis is most definitely on the social side!

You told us back in 2017 that numbers were pretty low at the club at the time – is that still the case?

We were hopeful we would attract large numbers over the winter but sadly this has not been the case.

Perhaps the Women’s T20 World Cup will spark some interest in the game, and my phone will soon be ringing off the hook!

We would love to have two Sunday teams allowing the developing players to play the longer format but, realistically we need at least another 10-16 players. We are now at the point where we are only looking to expand the 1st team when a player leaves us, we spot a skill gap, or feel we need to expand the squad.

We are keen that our developing players have the opportunity to break through into the first XI and develop. We are always looking at new players for our midweek teams and junior teams.

The ECB’s new ‘Inspiring Generations’ strategy addresses the whole pathway through the game. It looks to us a great opportunity to make cricket more modern, innovative and inclusive. How do you think we can engage more women in cricket? Do you think that ambition is flogging a dead horse or can it be realistically achieved?

I think a fact much forgotten is that most of the pathway players start out playing club cricket. Without investment in club cricket where do these players come from? A huge investment has been made in the 100 competition, and we really need to see the promised investment in the club game very soon!

Our Sunday league, the WCSL remains one of the strongest in the country but this has gone from 5 divisions to 2 in the space of 5 seasons as teams choose to switch to local county run leagues.

We choose to travel to play a high level of cricket so as to ensure all our ladies have competitive matches, but it does mean a lot of twelve hour plus Sundays, and a huge petrol bill!

I am hoping that the 100 will engage more women and girls, and we will know if it’s the length of the games that puts women off cricket. I am guessing time will tell.

What is the club’s ethos, and how would you sell the idea of joining the club to any women thinking about getting involved?

Our ethos has always been to try and involve all our players as much as possible in all games, and the fact we play cricket because we want to!

We now run two 9 a side midweek teams where we can guarantee giving everyone a go. Developing whilst playing is, we feel, the way ahead, and players can do this in a no pressure fun-filled environment!

We also try, wherever possible, to have a level 2 coach playing in all these development games, so you can check out that the coaches do exactly what they have been telling you to do when they were coaching you!

We are now running a ladies softball team and this guarantees we really can provide cricket for all from pure social to premiership levels. We’re a small but friendly club, and like to think we give all new members a warm welcome and do all we can to ensure they enjoy their cricket.

From winter coaching and indoor cricket matches, through the complete season outside, we always try to keep it light-hearted, sociable, and enjoyable. If you have ever wanted to try a new sport, or a new team, we encourage you to get in touch, come on down to one of our sessions and give cricket a go, we would love to see you!

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Thanks so much to Dave for his time and giving us such a thoughtful and considered interview. Ansty Ladies CC is a cracking, progressive and inclusive club – and if you’d like to get involved, whether it’s the cricket, the softball or the social life, you can find them on Facebook or check out their contact details on their website.

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