Exciting Thunder look to dig into Dubai memories for RHF Trophy title tilt

Thunder had a successful pre-season tour in Dubai. © Getty Images

When the Thunder team left Manchester for their pre-season tour of Dubai, the temperature in their home city was around one-degree celsius. When they landed in the ‘City of the Gold’ they were welcomed by the thermometer that touched almost 38 degrees celsius. Throughout their tour, this was one of the many changes they witnessed.

For their captain, Eleanor Threlkeld, who was part of England A side and travelled from Australia, it was a relatively smoother transition. “To be honest, I went straight from Australia. So climate-wise, I was doing all right, but I think a few of the girls did find it a bit of a mad change,” Threlkeld told Women’s CricZone.

The Regional Director of Women’s Cricket for Lancashire, David Thorley, echoed the sentiments of the captain. “Some of these players have not traveled the world much, never mind play cricket there.” In that situation, hydration became the top-most priority for the players. It was a massive change for players who have not traveled much outside of their country for Cricket. This is where the support from Lancashire men’s team, who were also touring UAE for their pre-season, came in.

“It was a big load but again a lot of the male players helped as well. And gave women’s side advice on how to manage themselves when they were not bowling,” Thorley said. That support was extended otherwise as well. From the organization’s point of view, both men’s and women’s sides share a motto of ‘One Club, Two Teams’ in spirit. And that is what led to this tour in the first place.

“When the men’s side started planning their tour to Dubai, it was immediately discussed of why don’t women go as well,” Thorley remembered. “My first response was finance, but who’s going to pay for it. (laughs) But, that’s a fantastic thing about Lancashire that, we want to be at the forefront of women’s cricket. Pioneering groundbreaking tours like this are incredible.”

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Threlkeld, who later led the side for the first time in the Charlotte Edwards Cup got the opportunity to interact with men’s captain Dane Vilas, which helped her with the young side. The captain believes it was challenging to lead the young group of people for the first time, but these experiences helped.

“It was really good to get started out in Dubai and we have got a pretty young group, but the talent in that group is really exciting. After a big winter, they have worked hard and they have really progressed. The only word I can use is ‘exciting’. I think we’ve got a really good group of players, and the atmosphere we’ve got training at the minute is really good,” she added.

This young group showed their caliber and the captain highlighted that one performance of her team will stick with her for a longer time. “We played a day-night game under the lights. And our bowling and fielding performance just exceeded all my expectations. It showed the togetherness we have as a group.”

“We played against some very good cricketers in the UAE team. It was our first run out on the grass after a big winter indoors and in a lot of the games, we were given a lot of players different opportunities and different roles to try and express themselves and to try and show what they have done in the winter. They (UAE) are an international side and they were a very good group of cricketers, but we had the opportunity to show how hard we have worked in the winter,” the captain added.

Thunder captain Ellie Threlkeld

Thunder have a new captain in Ellie Threlkeld. © Getty Images

Another change in this tour of the UAE was that all of these friendly matches were live-streamed via Lancashire’s YouTube channel. Even with the odd timings back home in England and the Women’s World Cup in New Zealand, it gained significant views. The live stream was supported by a multi-camera angles view and a commentary panel. Thorley believes Lancashire wanted to present this as a product to their viewers.

“We wanted a commentary rather than just a static camera. (We wanted)a good setup, so people will watch it. We have invested heavily in that, with Lancashire support. I think, you ultimately want a good product. You want people to watch it and at the same time, you want it to be commercially an asset as well. And it just shows that if you do put it out there, people will watch,” Thorley said.

The Thunder team is now getting used to playing in front of cameras. They played the inaugural season of The Hundred in front of packed stadiums and millions of viewers watching it from all over the world. One of the defining moments of the inaugural season came when Lancashire’s Emma Lamb looked ecstatic walking towards the crease in the first-ever match in the format. It has become a part of their cricket and the captain believes now all of the Thunder players are used to it.

“(Livestreaming) is something we are a bit more used to now. It continues to happen in the Charlotte Edwards Cup and the Rachel Heyhoe-Flint Trophy as well. I think the girls are all pretty used to it now and it wasn’t really something we thought about there. We just sort of thought about focusing on ourselves and the cricket we were playing,” the captain added.

Such is the regularity of the presence of cameras in women’s cricket, that it’s not something that surprises the players. It is a huge change in a short amount of time when 5-6 years ago, fans struggled to find the highlights of international matches.

Threlkeld believes these hard-earned experiences in the hot conditions of UAE have connected the Thunder unit. During the recently concluded Charlotte Edwards Cup, they struggled to get going, even with the England international players in the playing XI, they finished third in Group A.

“(The performances on the UAE tours in the absence of international players), is something that stuck out from that tour for me. I will be reminding the players before we go out for our first game how well we did in Dubai. And that feeling of togetherness that we had, because I think that was something that the players created themselves and that is something we need to take forward throughout the year.”

With Thunder starting their journey in the RHF Trophy on July 3, they would like to hold on to those memories of togetherness from the Dubai tour and utilize the lessons they have learned to win the championship.