Danni Wyatt on 150th T20I: 'I've not yet achieved what I wanted to in the sport'

Danni Wyatt with the Player-of-the-Match trophy Tom Dulat / © ECB/Getty Images

The night before a match, regardless of which country she's in, Danni Wyatt opens her notebook to a blank page and writes down some keywords to remember the following day.

Whether it's a World Cup final or a domestic match, it's the same process. And it was the same on Tuesday evening as Wyatt, 32, prepared for her 150th T20I for England. She wrote down "enjoy", "relax" and a few other more aggressive reminders.

Often by the time she gets to the crease, she has forgotten what she wrote. "Once I'm out in the middle I'll just be like, let's go, bring it on," Wyatt says. "I try not to think too much, I just try and be in the moment and just watch the ball." She stands tall with her chest out, head up, and aims to hit the first or second ball over the boundary.

That's the mentality that she's fine-tuned across 13 years of representing England, leading her to this milestone 150th cap. "When I've played my best knocks, I've just thought, 'Come on, bring it on.' If you walk out there all shy and think you're going to get out and have a fear of failure, you've got no chance."

It didn't used to be like that, especially in the first seven years of her career, when she was cast as an allrounder with a batter's mindset.

In time, she has learnt to manage her self-doubts, but regardless of whether she's Wyatt the experienced international, or back as her ten-year-old self, playing in the boy's team alongside her older brother Ryan, there's one theme bridging eras and fuelling her. "I've always felt like, especially in ODIs, I've always had to prove people wrong. And I've always played as if it's my last game. I guess even when I play my 150th match, I'll still feel like I've not done enough yet."


It's late afternoon in Mumbai when we talk on Zoom. The England players who played in the WBBL joined the team in India earlier in the day. Wyatt woke up feeling a bit "blah" but after a slightly shambolic coffee order and a team lunch, her spirits quickly returned to normal. It's a familiar feeling building up to an England match; the butterflies she gets on game day are the same that fluttered as she stood at the makeshift crease on the street outside her family house waiting for her brothers to bowl at her.

Cricket wasn't always a predestined path. Wyatt was a talented footballer and part of Stoke City's centre of excellence, but the bat and ball won her over. She remembers the first time she played alongside Ryan at the local cricket club in Whitmore. "It's quite scary, isn't it, for a girl? But because he was there and I knew his friends who played in the team, I just felt so comfortable. Playing against the other teams, you could hear them saying, 'Oh they've got a girl, they're going to be rubbish', actually spurred me on to being better."

Wyatt progressed to Staffordshire Ladies and Meir Heath Women, and in 2010, the England call came for the tour of India. She made her international debut in an ODI in Mumbai, where she will walk out for her 150th T20I, although on a different ground.

"I batted No. 8 and got picked for my bowling. I bowled four overs and I was so nervous I could hardly let go of the ball. It was horrible. I think I went for 24 off four overs, which isn't great, but I batted and got 28 not out." Three days later she made her T20I debut on the same ground. "I got run-out for 0 and everyone was saying I went from Donald Bradman to Donald Duck in the space of basically 24 hours."

Wyatt views her career as clearly split into two phases. From 2010 to late 2017, there's Wyatt the allrounder who did okay with bat and ball but felt unfulfilled. "In my head, I always felt more of a batter who could bowl a little bit. And then I had people throw me in to be a pinch-hitter.

"I was a better player than that. I used to go out there and swing instead of batting properly and doing what I knew I was capable of. Maybe I didn't take it as seriously as I should have; I could have scored way more runs than I did."

Back then her mood was governed by her form and most recent performance - the number of wickets she took, or the runs she mustered. She was fully immersed in the cricket bubble. The pressure grew, and it came to a head after the 2013-14 Ashes down under, where she struggled for form, taking two wickets across three T20Is and two ODIs.

"I've been told for years that I'd never be a Test player," Wyatt says. "They said, 'You've got a different technique, you've not got the temperament to last that long, you are a slogger, you're a T20 player…' But in my head, I thought I can definitely do this"

"I just wanted to be away from cricket. I got to a point I didn't even want to be picked for a while. I had this feeling I was going to fail. I think it was just burnout." She was only 22, but tour after tour had taken its mental toll.

"I was dropped for the T20 World Cup in Bangladesh and I was actually relieved. I had a holiday, had several weeks out, and I got the hunger back. I was recharged, I did well at domestic level and got back into the squad. I've not missed many since, apart from the ODIs a couple of years ago, which I was really disappointed about."

In late 2017, there were a couple of months in which her cricketing life and perspective shifted. It's a state of mind she still inhabits six years on.

It was another Ashes series in Australia. A week before she flew out to join the team, her grandad died. She wasn't picked for the Test side or the three ODIs, but then came the T20Is. "I knew it was my time. I was just like, right, come on, my grandad just died. There's way more to life. We are all going to die one day. What's the point in worrying and stressing? I was stressing about whether I was even going to play for England again. I was annoyed that I didn't get picked in the ODIs. I also knew I could play Test cricket, but I'd always had these people saying, 'You've not got it in you to play Test cricket'.

"That annoyed me, so I thought, I'm just going to forget what everyone says. I'm going to do me and be a bit selfish.

"I think I was batting at six in the first T20I. It was at the North Sydney Oval and I hit my first T20I fifty. And then I got picked to open the batting two days later in Canberra."

Wyatt remembers the huge influence England's head coach Mark Robinson had on her career. "Robbo changed my career. And Ali Maiden, who was the batting coach, played a huge part. They put their trust in me and said, 'You can do it'.

"I remember Robbo saying to me the night before that match in Canberra, 'Just promise me, you won't be scared. If Ellyse Perry bowls you a bouncer, get behind it.'" At this point, as we talk, Wyatt mimics a pull shot. "I remembered that when I batted the next day. I think I got about 26 [she made 19 off 16] and I just felt really good."

Two days later, with the series poised at 1-1, Wyatt opened once again, and this time everything clicked. She hit 100 off 57 balls, becoming the first female England player to hit a T20I century.

She remembers the emotions that bubbled over when she was on 99. "I felt myself starting to cry. I suddenly thought of my grandad, who'd be up there looking down on me, of all the times my dad drove me around the country when I was younger, Mum buying me my first set of whites. I was thinking about all the tough times in cricket to get to this place I was, about to hit a T20 hundred to win us the game and draw the Ashes." The century came off a single from a square cut.

The tears mixed with sheer exhilaration and adrenaline. She put her hands in the air and hugged her batting partner, Katherine Brunt. "It was just such a relief to finally show the world and my team-mates what I could do. At this point there was loads of talk about me having all the talent but getting out in the 20s and 30s, being a pinch-hitter, etc. But this felt like such a massive relief. I knew I could do it."

Four months later, she hit her second T20I century, 124 off 64 in Mumbai against India.

Since that 2014 hiatus and the 2017 breakthrough, Wyatt has taught herself to be more philosophical with form. "The number of times I've been in a rough patch, you start having those thoughts in your head saying you are rubbish, you can't play cricket anymore, you doubt yourself. Even though I've just hit a hundred in the series before, [if] then you fail, you start thinking, 'Am I good enough?' So it's all about being mentally strong.

"She pauses when asked how she'd like her career to be remembered. "Hopefully Danni Wyatt, the girl that is always there for the team, hits the ball from ball one, a good fielder and good person"

"I remember listening to an interview from Joe Root and he said as a cricketer, as soon as you think you've made it, that's when you'll drop off.

"You've never actually made it because it's such a fickle sport. You can get 100 one day and then the next game get out on 0. You can train really well, feel in great touch, and then you can whack it to a fielder and be out for a low score. So that's why it keeps you humble and keeps you improving."

Part of that is experience and age, but also the influence of her friends, family and fiancée Georgie Hodge, who is a football agent.

"I think she knows far more about cricket than she lets on, but it helps," Wyatt says about having a partner who isn't connected with the game.

There are always distractions, like the two planning their wedding next year. "It's a very exciting time and something to look forward to. Obviously cricket is my job and it means a lot to me, but as long as my family and friends are happy and healthy, that's the main thing, isn't it?

"It is a horrible time when you are going through a rough patch, it can be pretty lonely, but it's all about having a good support network around you."

Right now on tour, Wyatt is focusing on her pre-match routines, like that process of writing down keywords the night before. "It's just things to keep fresh in my mind, whether it's 'brave', 'show intent', 'hit with full face of the bat'.

On the morning of the game, if she's feeling the nerves, she'll lie down in her hotel room and do some breathing exercises. On the bus to the ground she'll listen to music, seek a laugh or two to alleviate any nerves, but the minute she's at the ground, it's game face.

"I won't think about the words, but they help me prepare. It's literally just thinking about the pitch, what it might do, what their [the opposition's] goal is going to be, and then once I'm out there in the middle, I think you've just got to trust your processes and hope for good luck and just try and relax.

"I do think nerves are really good. I get nervous playing in the street with my brother. It just means that we care. I do think nerves turn into energy. A lot of people say I'm a completely different person on and off the pitch. I don't speak when I'm batting. I just like to stay in the zone and have a confident 'arrogance' about me.

"Especially for me, [while] opening the batting, it's my job to put the pressure on the bowlers straight away and entertain the crowd and people watching at home. And that comes with taking a lot of risks. Sitting back in the crease and trying to hit a six second ball is a big risk, but the best players all do that and sometimes it comes off, sometimes it doesn't."

Wyatt is kicking off the winter tour after a really good season at home. In August she was the Player of the Final, leading Southern Brave to their first Hundred title, having lost the 2021 and 2022 finals. That was a career highlight, but an even bigger one had come two months earlier when she made her Test debut, against Australia at Trent Bridge, having been overlooked for so long.

"I've been told for years that I'd never be a Test player," Wyatt says. "They said, 'You've got a different technique, you've not got the temperament to last that long, you are a slogger, you're a T20 player…' But in my head, I thought I can definitely do this."

She references the way the England men have adopted "Bazball" as having "helped a little bit", but also the philosophy of current head coach Jon Lewis, who "wants us to take the game forward".

"He wants us to put pressure on the bowlers as soon as we go out to bat. He talks about wanting to inspire the next generation. I remember as soon as [Lewis] got the job, I told him I wanted to play Test cricket and that it was my aim to play in the Ashes. At that point I wasn't even in his sights, but every opportunity I had to impress, I made sure I took it. I finally got the nod the night before the Test."

She batted at No. 6, scoring 44 and 54. "It was kind of like an stuff-you to a lot of people. I was just so proud to be out there playing Test cricket, let alone in an Ashes. The result didn't go our way, but we played so well throughout the five days. I just wanted to do well for myself, my family and for Lewy."

After a summer in which she featured in the Ashes, the Hundred and the Charlotte Edwards Cup, where she scored a match-winning fifty in the final, Wyatt started to feel hints of fatigue, so she pulled out of the WBBL where she was due to play for Perth Scorchers. She still looks pained as she talks about the guilt of letting people down, but she knew she was getting close to exhaustion.

Away from cricket there was the exhilaration of getting engaged in March this year, but a month previous, she'd had to navigate the heartbreak of not being picked up in the groundbreaking Women's Premier League auction - an event that promised not only the biggest payday in the history of women's cricket but a global spotlight for the best players in the game.

"I really got my hopes up. I was thinking, surely I'll get at least a bid." She had put herself in as an allrounder for the auction at a competitive Rs 50 lakh price tag (US$60,400 approx), ticking the batter and offspin boxes. The auction coincided with England's T20 World Cup match against Ireland in Paarl.

She remembers being on the team bus on the way to the ground, checking her phone to keep track of the auction.

"I do think nerves are really good. It just means that we care. I don't speak when I'm batting. I just like to stay in the zone and have a confident 'arrogance' about me"

"It was hideous, actually. I didn't even know what to do and I somehow had to get up for a game. I was so angry and upset but probably more embarrassed than anything. I wondered what everyone's going to think. Then my confidence dropped as I straightaway thought, 'Obviously I'm not good enough.'"

England beat Ireland, Wyatt scoring 16. "I got back to my little apartment and wanted to be alone. I ordered a Thai takeaway. Luckily Maia Boucher texted and came to join me. She hadn't been picked either. We just chatted about life and tried to not think about it, but I was pretty disappointed. The following day we were flying to the next venue and Katherine Sciver-Brunt hadn't got picked either. She's one of my best mates, so we hung out and we were chatting about stuff and expressing our anger."

The team made a collective vow not to talk about it - seven England players in total had been drafted, most notably Nat Sciver-Brunt [Katherine's wife], who was picked up for a life-changing Rs 3.2 crore ($385,000), the others overlooked. In time, the disappointment subsided.

Looking back now, Wyatt feels she made an error putting herself in as an allrounder. As the WPL played out, she went to play three matches in the Women's League Exhibition in Pakistan. "I really enjoyed Pakistan, I stayed as strong as I could, talked to my family, talked to Georgie, my coaches, and tried to stay positive. Unfortunately you've just got to deal with it and sometimes laugh about it, or you'll cry."

Just under ten months on, when the auction comes round again on December 9, she'll be playing - if picked - for England against India in the second T20I in Mumbai. "What will be will be. I had a good summer and I've done everything I can."

This time around though, there's no ambiguity. She's put herself in at Rs 30 lakh ($36,000 approx), the lowest option. "I've also just ticked the batting box this time."


When she walks out at the Wankhede Stadium on Wednesday, Wyatt will be only the third player in the women's game to reach the milestone of 150 games, following India's Harmanpreet Kaur and New Zealand's Suzie Bates, and the first from England - Nat Sciver-Brunt is on 111 and Jos Buttler on 109. Wyatt hasn't played in seven weeks, but she's excited about getting back there in the city where it all started.

"I guess with the 150th, I won't pay too much attention to that, or want any fuss. It'll be at the back of my mind but I still feel like I've not achieved what I wanted to in the sport."

Wyatt hasn't allowed any nostalgia to seep into her preparations. Whenever she watches highlights back or catches memories of yesteryear, she still feels like the same youngster who gravitated to the game out of love, rather than any knowledge of potential commercial or monetary gain. "I still can't believe I'm getting paid to be playing cricket. It's a shame I'm 32 because, yeah, I feel like I could carry on playing and playing, especially the way the game's going."

She pauses when asked how she'd like her career to be remembered. "Hopefully Danni Wyatt, the girl that is always there for the team, hits the ball from ball one, a good fielder and good person". She then waits, before adding: "Oh, and she used to bowl a bit back in the day."

But thoughts of retirement are not yet remotely near the front of her mind. There's unfinished business, a career yet personally unfulfilled. "I've not won a T20 World Cup yet, and that's something I really want to do. We've got the World Cup in Bangladesh in October, so hopefully that's the one.

"I've performed loads in the past, but I feel like I've got a lot more to give. If I retired tomorrow, I'd think I've had an okay career, but I wouldn't say it's been amazing. Some people might think differently, but for me, I just think I can be better.

"You can practise all you want, but as soon as you get into a match, it's different gravy. It's all about handling the pressure and I love that."