Alice Davidson-Richardson feared that her career in England was over at just 23 years old.
The all-rounder from Kent made her debut against India in 2018, a single day-long straight five Twenty20 international match against Australia.
Struggling to cement her place in a competitive squad, England gave her a rookie deal in 2019, but she was not called up again.
But four years later, it’s time for the second round.
Davidson-Richards is one of five potential debutants named in the England test squad to face South Africa, and couldn’t be happier.
“I was driving to practice when I got the call to say I was on the team,” she says. “I called my mother and she was crying.
“My mom would say, ‘Is everything okay? What happened? Did you have an accident?’ I had to tell him, ‘No, that’s good news!'”
Davidson-Richards exudes confidence and positivity. She is always smiling, her optimism is contagious. You can hear her smile even through a phone call.
She is even grateful for the difficult period following her international debut for the change in perspective it has given her.
“There were some really bad times in those couple of years,” he said. “So the call made me a lot more emotional than I thought it would be, especially telling my parents who have been there with me the whole time.
“If I went back now and told myself back in those days that it would all be worth it, that this was going to happen, I really don’t think I would have believed it. Happy doesn’t cover how I feel.”
The call-up is the result of four years of hard work with an added dose of uncertainty following his previous appearances in England.
While she had the security of a one-year rookie contract, Davidson-Richards was working as a personal trainer alongside him, thinking she might have to look elsewhere for a job.
But in 2020, she was able to fulfill her dream of becoming a professional cricketer, when the England and Wales Cricket Board introduced domestic contracts for the first time.
Until then, the only way to make a living as a cricketer was to play for England.
Now 28 and in her third year as a pro with her region’s South East Stars, she knows she’s ready for her second chance.
“He definitely had the chops to do it,” Davidson-Richards says of his debut. “And I don’t think it was the completely wrong time, because sometimes people debut at that age and blossom, but now I’m more confident and a much more well-rounded person.”
‘It’s sending a positive message’
An England debut at a young age is certainly not uncommon in women’s football: the last time an English player made her debut aged over 24 was in 2004.
Before there was a professional national path like there is now, the only way for England managers to see if players with potential could compete at a higher level was within international cricket.
Thus, predominantly young players debuted as older and more experienced county cricketers had commitments from other jobs, until now.
In 2018, six players made their England debuts, with Davidson-Richardson and Linsey Smith being the oldest at just 23 years old. Katie George was 18, Kirstie Gordon was 21, and Bryony Smith and Sophia Dunkley were 20.
Dunkley has established himself as a mainstay of England’s middle order but, for the others, while they may not have featured regularly since, they can still continue their careers as professionals within the regions.
But such is the significance of Davidson-Richards’ retirement, it is a symbol of the strides made by women’s football, a display of the international side reaping the rewards of professionalism beneath it.
“I think it definitely sends a really positive message to other players that there is a way back,” he said.
“You have to work hard to get the rewards, but it can only be positive for others to see that the door never closes again. It’s me who has been chosen this time, but it could be someone else next time.” equipment.”
Davidson-Richards’ achievement mirrors that of closer Tash Farrant, who was called up to England in 2021 after impressing at The Hundred, eight years after making her England debut aged just 17.
‘It’s going to push us forward’
The backbone of the England women’s team has remained virtually unchanged over the past five years, with Heather Knight, Nat Sciver, Tammy Beaumont, Kate Cross, Amy Jones, Lauren Winfield-Hill and Danni Wyatt all among the early recipients of central contracts. in 2014. – and they still have them today.
But with closer Anya Shrubsole announcing her retirement from all forms of cricket and Katherine Brunt withdrawing from Tests, the transition process is beginning.
And with the talent pool rising below England’s contract players, captain Heather Knight says she has already started to feel the impact.
“We’re talking about so many different names now when it comes to selection,” Knight said. “Someone like Alice Davidson-Richards has had the consistency to train in the home environment to show what she can do.
“It’s exactly what we want to see and it will really push us as a team to have that competition for places.”
Along with the trial squad, it was announced that England A would take on South Africa in a three-day match, an opportunity for players outside the international setup to battle for selection.
Included is opening batsman Eve Jones, 29, who also toured Australia with the A-team in 2021 and was recommended by many for a call-up during the Ashes and the World Cup after impressing on the regional circuit.
Georgia Elwiss captains the team, while Winfield-Hill and Wyatt are also named, suggesting that familiar faces in the England line-up are no longer always guaranteed.
While it may have seemed unlikely in the past, it could be that older, more experienced national players start earning calls, or in the case of Davidson-Richards, getting called up again.