By Luke Baker
AFTER travelling to Australia just to train, being thrust into the Sydney Sixers line-up and then lifting the Women’s Big Bash League trophy, to call Kim Garth’s last fortnight a fairytale might be underselling it.
It was in October when the Irish bowler found out she would have the opportunity to train with the Sixers come January, as part of the WBBL rookie programme.
The carrot was then dangled that if someone got injured, the 20-year-old may even get a game.
Garth was not going to get her hopes up but on January 13 she found herself trotting out at the North Sydney Oval for her Sixers debut against the Hobart Hurricanes.
Then, after a further four games in the following 12 days, the seamer found herself preparing for the Big Bash final against Perth Scorchers at the WACA.
She duly completed her remarkable rise in fitting fashion, taking 1-20 as the Scorchers were dispatched by seven runs and the girl from Dublin found herself lifting the trophy in front of thousands of people at one of the most historic venues in the world.
“Where have the last few weeks gone? It has been absolutely incredible,” said Garth. “I went out to Australia with no idea whether I would just be training or playing.
“To find out I would have the chance to play was incredible. Then suddenly I played five games, learned I could be on the field in the finals and went from thinking I might not get a match at all to playing in the showpiece at the WACA!
“I’ll be honest, I was pretty nervous but I did reasonably well in my first game, which calmed me down.
“Then I was a bit more nervous for the Sydney derby at the SCG because that was on TV as well. And I was really, really nervous for the final but it definitely got a bit easier.
“I was quite happy with how bowled – the Sydney derby was probably my best game and the final was also good, so I was very happy.
“Playing at the Gabba, the WACA and the SCG all in the space of a week and a half will live with me forever. Hopefully, I’ll be there again at some stage in the future.”
Garth was far from a passenger.
Her crucial 2-20 against the Melbourne Renegades helped the Sixers end the group stage on a high. And she had already impressed with a superb return of 1-17 against Sydney Thunder.
Playing alongside established internationals such as Ellyse Perry, Alyssa Healy, Sara McGlashan and Dane van Niekerk will have done the Irish youngster’s game no end of good and she acknowledges what a unique learning opportunity the whole experience was.
“Having seen what the best players in the world do, it’s no coincidence that they’re the best players in the world,” she said.
“Seeing the weekly routines and what you have to do to be the best and stay the best was a bit of an eye-opener.
“Playing the games was extremely valuable as well – there’s no margin for error.
“Ellyse Perry was someone I learned a huge amount from just by seeing how she went about her business.
“She works incredibly hard and it’s no surprise she is probably the best cricketer in the world.
“Being around the set-up in general was incredibly helpful but being alongside Ellyse in particular taught me so much.”
Garth will have the chance to put any new-found skills to the test from next week as she plays for Ireland in the 2017 World Cup qualifying tournament in Sri Lanka, where four teams will book their place at the tournament proper in England alter this year.
The Irish squad are currently in Dubai at a training camp before their first game against Zimbabwe on Tuesday, and Garth claims that confidence is high after the impressive summer of 2016 in which they had recorded victories over the likes of South Africa and Bangladesh.
“Half the squad have been in Australia for the past few months and half in Dublin but we’re together now and there’s a really good feeling in camp,” added Garth, who made her senior Ireland debut as a 14-year-old back in 2010.
“We had a good summer, beating South Africa a few times and knocking over Bangladesh as well. People say winning becomes a habit, so hopefully we can carry that over to this tournament.
“We’re high in confidence but it’s quite nice being the underdogs going into events like these because we have nothing to lose.
“Being on the Sub-continent, conditions are different to those that we are used to, but the team is experienced and have played over here a few times.
“We’re very capable of qualifying but it’s about being consistent and putting everything over the last 12 months together for this big tournament.”
This piece originally featured in The Cricket Paper, February 3 2017
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