PHOTOGRAPHY BY AMY MAIDMENT
WORDS BY VICTORIA McINTYRE
Naomi has invested heavily in herself since she was a teenager, determined to make the most of her sporting talent by working on her physicality, technical game, mindset, and personal relationships.
Her investment paid off. Naomi joined the first ever cohort of female professional cricketers in England, when the game finally turned pro for women in 2020. Initially a bowler, she has worked hard to improve her batting and with her club Sunrisers, scored her first century at Lord’s earlier this year.
She also plays for London Spirit in cricket’s new franchise The Hundred.
Naomi talks to us about investing in your own development, making difficult decisions and her pride in representing South Asian women in professional sport.
You have taken significant ownership over your sporting development. When did that begin?
My third year at university was a really significant year for me. I got dropped from the MCCU programme and I was heartbroken about it. I lost all the support that comes with being in that sort of set up and realised if I wanted to be the best cricket player I could be, I was going to have find my own way, trying to pick up everything I had already learned. Later in that year, I won my place back on the MCCU programme and ended up captaining the tour to Dubai in 2015. That was a ‘pinch me’ moment. I realised the potential I had and realised if need be, I can develop myself and don’t have to rely on the support systems that have already been in place. Whilst it would be preferable, I didn’t need to be in a programme to better myself at cricket. When I finished university, my boyfriend said ‘if you don’t try now, how are you going to ever know whether you could reach your potential or not?’ So I decided to invest in myself and travelled to Australia and through a link with the Middlesex Women captain at the time, got to link up with Melbourne Cricket Club where I dedicated almost seven months of my life to 100% cricket.
Why was it necessary for you to go to Australia at that time?
They were a little bit more ahead at the time. Their state programme was semi-professional. At club level, the competition was higher than I was playing in England, so it was a good challenge for me to get better. One of the main goals was to improve my batting as at the time I was a bowler. Over there I probably batted five times a week. It was hard though. My parents supported me on that first trip by paying for my flights and said ‘thereafter, it’s up to you, you need to figure it out.’ I worked the summer before I went and saved up three months’ salary to pay my way. I got a working visa, so I was able to do some coaching and that helped fund my trip. Finances were a constant battle. In the first week I rang my parents to say I might want to come home. I didn’t know where anything was, I didn’t have any internet at the time. That felt like a big deal because I couldn’t find out where I was going. I had to be street smart and figure things out.
Read Naomi's full interview in Issue 01 of Club71