Elated Emily Arlott credits Central Sparks and domestic setup for her England selection

Emily Arlott in action © Laura Malkin

Four days ago (June 5), when Central Sparks seamer Emily Arlott was running through the Southern Vipers top-order, taking four wickets in an over at the County Ground in Hove, little did she know that her life is not going to be the same in a week. She finished with five for 29 in the Rachael Heyhoe Trophy encounter and helped the Sparks win by a massive margin of 120 runs.

After the match, she had to stop over at a hotel that night and travelled seven hours before she reached home on Sunday (June 10). Post dinner, Arlott checked her phone and noticed a missed call from Jonathan Finch, the Director of England Women’s Cricket.

“Obviously, I thought it was weird on a random Sunday evening,” said Arlott, explaining how she got to know about her England call-up for the Test match against India during a media interaction on Wednesday(June 9). “I called him back straight away. He told me the news. I don’t think I responded for a good two minutes. He said, ‘I hope this silence is a good thing’. I was like, ‘yeah, obviously’.”

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Arlott said that she was as surprised as anyone when she got the news about her selection because she did not think her name was in contention. “I think it was probably the best thing that could have happened,” said the 23-year-old about not expecting the call-up.

“If it was something that I was expecting, something like Saturday might not have happened. I have spent my whole career doing everything with a purpose while relaxing at it. Performances have come from just being able to enjoy the moment. I think it will do me really well in the long term. I got the news on Sunday, and I am with the team on Tuesday, which means I can get going right away and get to know the girls really.”

Making her List-A debut for Worcestershire in 2013, Arlott has toiled hard over the years in county cricket. Her selection might have come as a surprise, but she feels that it could be because she might have flown under the radar in county cricket. She believes that moving to the Sparks and getting a professional contract in 2020 played a crucial role in her transformation.

“I think my cricket has matured over the last few years. When I was younger, I was quite naive, and I was always searching for wickets. I was trying to force what would happen, and I will be disappointed,” Arlott said. “Whereas, I have really learnt a lot about myself over the last few years and developed off the pitch as well. I have got that maturity, which means I’m a lot more rational with my thinking on and off the pitch. I think that it has been a big factor in having a good start to the year, and the setup as well (has played a role). (If) you are in a professional environment, the professionalism breeds of (you) as well. You learn things that you might have not necessarily factored in a few years ago.”

Crediting the coaching team of the Sparks, Arlott said that they have really created a purpose for every training the players put themselves through. “We played our first warm up game in early March. Obviously, it was freezing, but it was the best thing we could have done as a team,” she added.

“We got outside bowling properly. If you are inside, so many factors you lose. Actually, we gained from being outside. The Sparks set-up is really amazing. We have really worked hard in the gym. I think that is part of the reason why things like Saturday happen where at a point, physically, we can replicate not just bowling ten overs for the sake of it, but bowl ten overs with a purpose.”

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The seamer also acknowledged the influence of the RHF Trophy and the regional setups in her growth. “I think, hopefully, if my selection demonstrates anything, that actually everyone in the regions now has a chance (to get an England call-up),” Arlott said.

“I may be one of the first from RHF to come, but I hope I am not the last by any means, and I hope that people keep crediting performances. It shows that the system actually really works and obviously, credit to the ECB and the regional setups for creating such an environment where this is a possibility. I don’t think I could have got it done without it.”

When asked if she intends to replicate that kind of performance (5/29 v Vipers) in the Test match against India if she gets a chance to play, Arlott was candidly hopeful about it.

“I hope so,” she said with all smiles. “It might happen again at some point, but it will quite hard to match something like that. If I can do anything close to that, it would be amazing,” she concluded.