Claire Nicholas, the off-spinner from Wales, is hoping to retain her place in the Welsh Fire squad for The Hundred next year. Originally scheduled to begin on July 17 of this year, the competition has been pushed to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Nicholas, now 33, hopes she can keep her place in the squad come next summer.
“I do wonder whether that was my last chance, given the time of my life that I’m in,” she told BBC Sport Wales. “I hope they keep the squads the same and that fans can get behind us.”
Nicholas was a member of the hugely successful Western Storm squad in the now-defunct Women Cricket Super League. She took 12 wickets in the final season of the tournament, helping Storm clinch their second title in 2019, after their first win in 2017. Although The Hundred is a different format and a different competition, Nicholas believes that Welsh Fire can build on the momentum created by Western Storm.
“We built up such a strong fan base with Western Storm so I really hope that keeps growing,” she continued.
Nicholas, who doubles up as a Swansea schoolteacher, and her former pupil Alex Griffiths, the 17-year-old allrounder, were the Welsh players selected by the franchise for The Hundred. They were to join the Australian trio of Matthew Mott – who had signed up as head coach – Meg Lanning and Jess Jonassen.
The postponement of the competition led to a cancellation of contracts, leaving many women cricketers in the lurch. Many players were set to earn more than £15,000 – only half the minimum men’s salary – but some were still meant to okay as amateurs. The 40 professional contracts too have been put on hold by the England and Wales Cricket Board.
“I work full time as a teacher so whilst I’m gutted to miss out, the finances aren’t as much of a concern as they are for some others,” Nicholas added. “It was definitely the right decision, but when you have a full-time job, a family and then you work so hard over the winter to get ready for the season, it hits hard.”
With women’s cricket having scaled a new peak following the success of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2020 final between Australia and India on March 8 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground attended by 86,174 people, Nicholas was hoping The Hundred could build on that momentum.
“It did definitely feel like the right time to launch The Hundred after the success of the World Cup,” she said. “It was huge that it was going to be played alongside the men’s competition, but I still hope that cricket in Wales will thrive from having a side involved. I hope we haven’t lost that generation from the postponement.”
From having had to pay her own expenses as a player since 2005, to earning money from the game now, Nicholas credits two key members of Cricket Wales for constantly pushing the game’s development.
“Our head coach Aimee Rees has dedicated so much to us and has never stopped fighting for us to achieve equality. Alongside, John Derrick (Rees’ late predecessor) , who always wanted the women’s game to succeed here, they were both instrumental in getting me and the game itself to a better place in Wales,” she concluded.