She’s 17, in the middle of her International baccalaureate (suffering rather than learning Spanish), supports Arsenal, wears a brace on her teeth and is, in almost every way, the endearing British schoolgirl. Except this way. She has been flown halfway around the world, with bats, pads, gloves substantially threatening her baggage weight limit, to do nothing less than take on the Aussies at cricket.
It is a ridiculously youthful age for a player to enter the white heat of Ashes competition, especially in the wake of the men’s trial by fiery bowling which reduced them from favourites to flotsam, but Tash Farrant, a medium paced left arm bowler “with swing” and T20 specialist is madly thrilled.
“I’ve never played Australia before. It’s a great rivalry and I know they won’t be nice to me just because I’m young."
“I’m so excited,” she said, amassing teetering piles of red, white and blue kit on her sofa before she left. Her Mum was packing to go with her, while her Dad, an oil executive, follows the story from Dallas. “I’ve never played Australia before. It’s a great rivalry and I know they won’t be nice to me just because I’m young.
“When England selector, Sarah Pickford, rang me to tell me I’d been picked, I didn’t know what to say. I think there was just this stunned silence and then I said something stupid like: ‘Thanks, loads.’ I didn’t scream or anything though.
“When I was called up the first time for Pakistan last summer - that’s when I screamed. My brother was in the other room and shouted: ‘What are you doing in there?’ And I can’t remember my debut performance, to be honest, because I was so nervous. I got two for 15. Well, not exactly. Something like that. Two wickets in one innings and one in another.
“I’m half the age of some of the girls, but they’ve been so welcoming. I think some of them see me as their little sister because I’m always so excited when I’m at training or on tour, although they tease me because I’m actually a bit of weed. I’ve only just started doing the strength stuff but I’m getting there.”
Farrant won her first England cap against Pakistan last summer
The mention of the brother is a crucial element of the story. Born in Greece to English parents and raised in Italy and Singapore before a move to Kent when she was eight, her two elder brothers were her playmates in gardens tropical and temperate alike.
“Charlie’s four years older than me and Tom’s a bit older than that but I used to play sport with them all the time. They loved it. They loved how I played sport.
“I was a bit of a tomboy; had short hair, the works. I always knew I wanted to be involved in sport. It was my passion. I was actually in the hockey set up until last year. I love hockey but I just prefer cricket.”
“I really love playing in the boys team...They seem not to know what to do when faced by a girl."
By the age of 11, she was playing in her school’s boys’ team. This provoked many nudges and slurs in the early days, often short-lived as the girl bowler in the Sevenoaks School team ripped into the batting line up.
“I really love playing in the boys team. It’s a challenge. They seem not to know what to do when faced by a girl. They either try and absolutely smash it or block you out because they they don’t want to get out to a girl. Sometimes you hear them say: ‘They must be rubbish because they’ve got a girl.’ That’s good - if you bowl them out they just look silly.”
Interestingly, more and more girls are following her lead and joining mixed school teams in her area. She takes it upon herself to go and chat to them sometimes, the unconscious role model, invigorating female ambition through sheer enthusiasm.
But it was her own enthusiasm, at the age of 15, that sought one-to-one coaching from Kent’s left arm bowler, Rob Ferley. “That’s when my bowling came on. That was the summer I got picked for Kent Ladies. Then Lottie and the England players saw me bowling and said: ‘Come and have a go in the nets with us’.
Tash Farrant: The facts
- 17 years old
- County: Kent women
- Batting style: Left-hand bat
- Bowling style: Left-arm medium
‘Lottie’ being the England women’s cricket captain, Charlotte Edwards, MBE, who follows in footsteps of great pioneers like former captain, Rachael Heyhoe Flint, now a Baroness in the House of Lords (the second major British institution she has stormed since becoming one of the first 10 female members of the MCC).
Farrant is astonished to discover the details of Heyhoe-Flint’s tour to Australia in 1968-69, when the players paid their own way, the flight was interrupted by eleven landings to refuel (five of them in India alone), the tour lasted nearly six months and finished with a gig at Shea Stadium in New York where The Beatles played live not long afterwards.
“I’m only going for two-and-a half weeks,” said Farrant, possibly with a tinge of disappointment.
Even more shock accompanied the revelation that a previous England women’s tour to South Africa in the mid-60’s involved two weeks on a ship, games of cricket with the ship’s company for match practice and the team throwing their official hats overboard into the Solent within seconds of leaving Southampton.
“All the stuff they did, you can see it now, can’t you?” Farrant said, enlightened.
But beneath the wondering, bubbly character is unwavering determination. You suspect it has always been there, but the intensity has grown with a tragedy that affected her personally last year. “I played at Holmesdale Cricket Club with Beth when we were both younger and I was in the West Indies with the England team when it happened. It was horrible. I saw it on the news. It was very emotional for me.”
Her friend, Bethany Freeman was killed as hurricane force winds sent a tree crashing down on a caravan in which the 17-year-old school girl was sleeping during fierce storms in October.
“I was on such a high after our games in Barbados, then suddenly we had that. It was really a tough time. But the girls were all so wonderful to me and they sent her Mum a tribute which was read out at the funeral which was lovely. I was there. It was a really hard time. It still is. It’s harder because she was such a young age. Now it just makes me appreciate all the more the opportunities I get.
“Every time I play now, I play for Beth.”
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