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[with Barbara Daniels]

[Portrait of Barbara Daniels]
This is the sixth in a series of interviews CricInfo will conduct during the tournament build-up with the leading players from the participating nations.

At the relatively late age of 28, Barbara Daniels' first taste of international cricket came at a huge moment for the England team - at the 1993 World Cup in front of home fans. She thrived on the experience, opening up with an unbeaten 60 against Denmark on debut and continuing to score consistently right through the tournament. In the final at Lord's, she also enjoyed a great day, scoring an unconquered 21 as her team defeated New Zealand and went on to lift the World Cup for the second time.

Following a comparatively lean run for the next three years, Daniels notched up Test and One-Day International career bests, striking an impressive 160 in the first Test against New Zealand at Scarborough in 1996, and 142 not out against Pakistan in the 1997 World Cup. The latter score was an England record in both One-Day Internationals and World Cups until Charlotte Edwards surpassed it four days later.

However, this was to be followed by another lean trot, which ultimately ended in her omission for 3 One-Day Internationals of a troubled tour down under in Australia and New Zealand earlier this year. Daniels returned to form with strong performances against South Africa at home, and having recently stood down from the post of ECB National Manager for Women's Cricket to focus on the World Cup, is timing her run well to peak in November and December.

Career Record (up to and including 1 July 2000):

BATTING M I NO Runs HS Ave 100 50 Ct St Tests 9 15 1 441 160 31.50 1 - 4 - One-Day Internationals 45 43 5 1123 142* 29.55 1 6 11 - World Cups 13 12 3 390 142* 43.33 1 2 7 -

BOWLING O M R W Ave Best 5w SR Econ Tests 16.2 1 79 3 26.33 1-9 - 32.6 4.83 One-Day Internationals - - - - - - - - - World Cups - - - - - - - - -

CricInfo UK's Kate Laven caught up with Barbara to chat with her about the forthcoming CricInfo Women's World Cup, to be held at Lincoln and Christchurch from 29 November to 23 December 2000.

Listen to Full Interview Audio
[Duration: 17 minutes 11 seconds]
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KL: Barbara Daniels - you are just about to fly off to New Zealand for your 'n'th World Cup. How many have you done now?

BD: This will be my third.

KL: And are you looking forward to it?

BD: Yes I am. It's come around quickly but I am looking forward to the challenge. What is really good this time is that we have two full weeks of proper preparation in New Zealand so we are not just going out for the World Cup, we have time to get settled and time to put into practice what we have talked about before we get to the World Cup proper.

KL: These competitions take an awful lot of preparation. How have the last few weeks been for you?

BD: They do take a lot of preparation but the last few weeks have been particularly good for me since I stopped working. I finished at the end of September and have had what I thought would be a long time - six weeks - which has gone very quickly. I have been able to get in the gym and train and do all the stuff that I really love! I have also been back into Lord's every week to have nets with my coach Andy Smith so twice a week, sometimes three times, I have had one to one sessions on my batting so I feel that I will be going to this World Cup as well prepared as I have ever been. I am very confident and positive about my own form at the moment and that's the beauty of the time we have had and the money we have had from the lottery funding in order to enable that to happen. As well as the squad training, we have had this one to one training and time to see sports psychologists and all the people we have to see so its been busy but effective in getting to right point before we go. It's been a relief to concentrate on playing and not to have to worry about anything else.

KL: Presumably this is the first World Cup that you have been able to do that?

BD: Yes. I made my debut in 1993 at the grand old age of 28 - nice way to start because we won the World Cup - and I suppose I didn't really know very much in that I had no international experience to compare it with and that was a tournament we weren't expected to win. We got to the final, almost by stealth, and then performed very effectively to win. 1997 was a particularly difficult World Cup in terms of being in India and all the travel hassles we had there - we didn't perform to our full potential - so we are very pleased that this next World Cup has come around and we can give it a better go.

KL: It's interesting that you were there in 1993 which was one of our best years and in 1997 which was unquestionably our worse. So you have been part of winning sides and despondent ones. Going into this, can you detect any difference in spirit or talent levels with this particular England side?

BD: I think I can. Sometimes it is difficult when you are so closely involved to spot the differences but of the 14 who have been selected, we have, for the first time in years, 14 who are all genuinely competing for 11 places. Maybe in the past few years, there have been two or three who were never going to make the 11 but this is a long trip and all 14 are going to be needed if we are going to win. There is a very positive feeling of belief in each other, that we have a talented squad in all departments and there is no reason technically why we can't go out and compete with the other teams. Maybe over the last few years, that is where we have struggled in that we haven't really believed that that is the case. We have done a lot of work technically and mentally. Last weekend we were on a team building weekend in Snowdonia - and we have worked quite hard on believing in each other and recognising the talent that is there. Sometimes it is easy to forget that when things are not going well. Actually I think we are quite good at what we do, if we get it all right. One of the things that came out of the team building weekend - we filled in forms with our observations about Australia's attitude. We had all pinpointed Australia as the team we all wanted to beat. By the end of the weekend, they revealed on a flipchart what it was we had said about Australia and compared it to what we were beginning to say about ourselves in terms of a code of conduct we had put together and the attitudes we were beginning to see. They were very similar. What you see in Australia is a very confident together team, even if off the pitch they might not be best of friends. But on the pitch they are very solid and present themselves as a unit to whom you need to show some respect. That was when we started to say we can do that rather than be in awe of other teams that do it.

KL: But it doesn't matter what effort you put into building a team, at the end of the day, it comes down to some key players getting runs and wickets, which is where you come in.

BD: Yes that's right. We can be as confident as we like - we have talked about walking the talk, being and looking confident but confidence comes from results and playing well. Our results against South Africa helped us in that regard I think, especially me.

KL: Yes, you had a very good summer didn't you?

BD: Yes and not just in the international arena but domestically as well but what I was pleased about was the consistency I was beginning to show and hopefully that will continue in the winter. But again, what was evident from the team building thing was that yes, there are key batsmen who would expect to score runs and key bowlers, but in fact all 14 are capable of scoring runs. We are not short of bowlers be it spin, pace, left arm bowlers - we have a good mix so we must not get to the point where we think if me or Charlotte don't score runs, what are we going to do. There are plenty of people who can do this. We all want to be the hero but if eight of us score 30 each, we are pushing 200 plus and that is what it is all about. The responsibility is on all of us in terms of what our key skills are but the beauty of this side is that everyone is capable of chipping in.

KL: You said you have had nets frequently. Do you think you are still in good form, the touch is there?

BD: Yes though indoors is very different to outdoors. But what I have done with Andy Smith is not just nets but batting drills. Keeping it very simple. What I was successful at this summer was emptying my head of the 15 things you want to worry about when you are batting. The basic thing is you want to hit the ball - doesn't matter who is bowling at you - and just playing straight. In terms of how I am hitting the ball, I feel very confident.

KL: What about the standards of the pitches. Will you be playing on pitches that might ruin that instinctive sort of approach?

BD: It's hard to say really. They are not like Australian pitches. They will be slower and lower but by all accounts they will be good quality. Whatever the pitches are like, I feel that the shot shapes I have been working on should stand me in good stead though those two weeks before the World Cup should be very important in allowing me to get used to the conditions again ... and the weather. By all accounts, Christchurch in December can be quite cold and windy and it may not be the glorious heat that people anticipate. Might be more like playing cricket in England in April. So it might be to our advantage!

KL: I was going to ask you about that - as host nation do you think New Zealand have the advantage?

BD: There is always an advantage when you play on your home turf. There was 1993 here when we won and Australia have always won at home. India didn't, but being familiar with surroundings must give you an advantage. But we are giving ourselves a chance of being as well prepared as possible to nullify that advantage.

KL: And what about your knowledge of the other sides. Presumably trying to find out as much about the other teams has been crucial.

BD: We have had more international cricket than most other teams and I think the three match series against New Zealand will stand us in good stead. Australia have not played any international cricket since we played them in January-February this year.

KL: Is that to your benefit, do you think?

BD: Yes I think it is. Undoubtedly they are the favourites and everyone would expect that they should walk this World Cup but you just never know and it is to our advantage that we have played more cricket and they have not played much since we were there. Their domestic competition has gone on and that is strong. The other thing that has affected their preparation is the Olympics - I don't know why I am laughing - in that that has been such a big focus that has had a big affect on the cricket programmes, so it has put back some of their preparations. That is not grasping at straws, that is the reality and they will be as well prepared as ever. But I do think we have got it right - getting out there early and playing three games against New Zealand and a couple of warm up games before we play in the World Cup.

KL: Every side wants to win the World Cup but is there an element with England that last winter, our tour there was so 'shambolic' (to use the coaches words) that there is a real determination this time round to put things right?

BD: Yes, undoubtedly there is. I might not use the word shambolic. It was very disappointing and we underperformed. But it was not a fair reflection of what we are capable of as a squad. And although it was hard, we have learned a lot. Speaking personally, there is a great determination to get back to New Zealand and say OK, this is us proper now. Winning against South Africa was the first part of that and while some people might say that South Africa are not as strong as Australia and New Zealand, it was important for us to establish the habit of winning. Yes so we are determined not just to lay the ghosts of that winter but to demonstrate that we are a better team than people think we are. But it is no bad thing that people do not expect us to do a great deal. It is a better state of mind for us to be in. After 1993 when we won, the expectation for us to keep on succeeding was much harder and we struggled with that. It is better for us to be at this point where people do not expect a great deal but we are beginning to be more confident about what we are capable of achieving.

KL: When you say people are not expecting much, do you mean the opposition?

BD: Yes. I don't think Australia or New Zealand will be scared of us at all. They will know that we can play better than we did last winter but they will not be having nightmares about us.

KL: In any World Cup, in any side there is usually a star that emerges - someone that is either incredibly talented or someone who is a real favourite with the spectators. Have we got anyone in the England side who will capture people's imaginations?

BD: I don't know. We are a squad of 14 who are very good and any could perform well. Laura Harper could be one to watch - she's just 16 yet is very confident in her bowling and although she is a good bat, will be a better bat in the future. She could be one to watch. It could be Charlotte but equally it could be Melissa Reynard who may not get 100 or five wickets but will chip in at the right times and show a level of fight and tenacity to win games. Dawn Holden turns the ball and on the wickets out there could cause problems for people. We have enough balance and variety for different days and different conditions so it could be different people at different times but I think Laura could be the one to watch.

KL: You mentioned Charlotte Edwards and this weekend she came fifth in a list of Britain's top sportswomen. What special qualities has she got?

BD: She is only 20 - she is 21 while we are on tour - and already she is very experienced. This is her second World Cup and already she has learned a lot. You forget she is that young because she has a very good cricketing brain. She was captain of boys county teams until she was 16 and she takes everything in and is beginning now to be confident enough to express herself in the team. She also works very hard. Although she is a very natural player and a natural run scorer, she has recognised the need to apply herself to really make the most of that. To be consistent and put aside disappointment. She is not a naturally athletic person but she has worked very hard - I know that because we are training together and she makes me keep going when I want to stop but over the last two years, she has lost weight and has got much fitter and recognises the need for that if she is to be someone that can bat through 30, 40, 50 overs.

KL: England are not favourites to win the CricInfo Women's World Cup but if you had to rate England's chances, what would they be?

BD: Realistically, they would for us to get to the semi-final. Game by game that is what we have to aim at. Once we get there then we have to say we have a chance of winning this and we do believe we have a chance. Australia are undoubtedly the favourites but we have all been around sport long enough to know that favourites do not always win. Hand on heart, Australia should win it but the beauty of sport is that it doesn't always run to form and I think we are putting ourselves in a position where we can compete with whoever we come up against.

KL: Thank you very much Barbara. I wish you all the very best of luck.

BD: Thank you.

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