Sophia Dunkley faces India with a new lease on life after the break from the England Women’s clash with Sri Lanka – LSB

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Dunkley did not play as big a role in that campaign as planned, and that took its toll. Only now, after resting up for the latter part of the summer’s home internationals and finding form late in the WBBL, is Dunkley back, ready to pull on an England jersey again and feeling good about her game.

“Overall, I’m very disappointed with my performance over the summer,” Dunkley told ESPNcricinfo ahead of England’s T20I tour and Test in India. “It was an amazing Ashes series, very intense, and every game came down to it, but I was definitely disappointed with my performance. I wanted to contribute to the team and help the team effort, and I felt that was not the case.” Right there for me.”

After scores of 9 and 16 in the Test, which Australia won, Dunkley scored a half-century in a losing cause during the first T20I. She then contributed key positions in England’s next two victories, but was largely second fiddle to opening partner Danny White. Opening alongside Tammy Beaumont in the ODIs, however, Dunkley only managed scores of 8, 13 and 2 as England won that leg, also 2-1. The Home Ashes series which attracted unprecedented public interest brought with it new challenges in the form of increased scrutiny and Dunkley took time out, missing the first two matches of the Women’s Hundred and, later, the white-ball series against Sri Lanka.

“Missing the Sri Lanka series was a discussion I had with the coaching staff and especially with the head coach and it was really about comfort,” Dunkley said.

“It was a good time to have a bit of a break and get away and do things that are important to me, and see my friends and family. We have an absolutely massive year ahead of us in international cricket. So I was very grateful that I had a great team of coaches who really supported me and gave me that time, and I’m going to go “Going into the India series feeling refreshed and excited. I feel like I have a new lease on life after having that time away, which is great.”

The spotlight looks set to intensify next year, with around 50,000 tickets sold in advance for England’s women’s international season, which includes Pakistan and New Zealand. This is already up 30% on the same time last year, with women’s ashes not reaching the 50,000 mark until late January this year. But Dunkley feels better equipped to handle another intense home summer this time around.

“You get DMs and comments all the time about people’s opinions, and I think that’s the way the game goes,” she said. “It’s hard sometimes to ignore that, but at the same time it’s part of the game, being in the spotlight, it’s just one of those things you have to accept that it happens. For me, it was just the intensity of the summer – it was a huge series, it was amazing.” We had a lot of support, which was great, and it was very emotional at times to feel like the country was behind us as it was.

“I think sometimes, the way sports go, you’ll get negative comments as well. It’s just one of those things, but I think it’s good to have that experience because you go through that and come out stronger on the other side. It’s put me in a better place in a way “Strange.”

Dunkley went on to score a 262-run per cent at 37.42, with a strike rate of 138.62, and overcame a slow start to the WBBL season to score a 48-ball 73 for the Melbourne Stars against the Perth Scorchers. Shortly before heading to Australia, she was among a group of England players who traveled to India for a training camp ahead of the current tour, which begins with the first of three T20Is on Wednesday, followed by a four-day Test.

Dunkley will not return to India next year for the second edition of the WPL. After being released by Gujarat Giants, she opted out of the auction to be held on December 9, the same day England and India play the second T20I.

“It was a decision I debated for a long time,” Dunkley said. “I loved my time in the WPL last year and had a great time at Gujarat Giants and I have a lot of special memories there and I think the WPL is an amazing competition. I would love to come back and play again 100 percent if I get another opportunity in the future. Playing cricket in India is great.” Amazing. I just think this year we have a tremendous international year, mentally and physically, to be in the best place so I think not going to the auction is the best decision for me.

“Working on improving my game and being in the best position to play for England is really my priority. It was never an easy decision. It took a lot of time and a lot of discussions. Coming back to the auction, “There is no guarantee that you will be taken on any Yes, but if I did, it was just an evaluation of the different decisions I had to make. The way the year has gone, it makes it difficult because it’s so busy and sometimes you have to make those decisions.”

England Women’s coach John Lewis organized the training camp in India after the Sri Lanka series exposed his team’s weaknesses against the bowling. With a T20I World Cup in Bangladesh next year followed by an ODI edition in India in 2025, it’s an area he wants to improve on and this bilateral series will be the first test of any progress made.

As for Dunkley, she’s made some technical changes that she hopes will pay dividends. Her grip, which is unconventionally split, has become wider, providing her racket with a sharper backpath and, in turn, creating smoother strokes.

“I struggled a little with my grip throughout the summer, which I felt was limiting me,” she said. “I’ve put a lot of work into it and I feel like I’m in a good place and I’ll keep working on it over the next few months or so. I’m seeing some really good signs in training and at the Big Bash and when I started going, I felt a lot better.”

Valkyrie Baines is the women’s cricket editor at large at ESPNcricinfo

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