Hannah Darlington’s first job as NSW’s youngest-ever cricket captain will be to keep Australian sport’s greatest domestic streak alive in the WNCL.
Darlington on Friday capped a crazy week by being named the youngest captain – men’s or women’s – in NSW’s 165-year history, just days after being picked in her first Australian squad for the tour of New Zealand.
The bowling allrounder will again lead the Breakers against South Australia on Sunday, with Alyssa Healy still on leave following the death of her husband Mitchell Starc’s father.
Darlington was only named as vice-captain earlier this month, with a view to her taking over when Healy toured New Zealand with the Australia team.
“Obviously circumstances have changed since and I thought I wouldn’t get the chance this year to captain,” Darlington said.
“(Being captain) is something I’m not uncomfortable with in terms of tactical decisions and helping out the bowlers.
“I’ve done it plenty of times before (in juniors), it’s just that different experience … these girls really know their cricket so I don’t have to do much support-wise.”
In taking over the captaincy at 19 years and 31 days, Darlington overtook Julie Stockton’s previous mark of 19 years and 252 days back in 1978. Ian Craig is the youngest men’s captain. He was 21 when he led the side in 1956.
Darlington’s first move was to back herself at the death, bowling the final over in Friday’s tie with Tasmania.
She did so with the advice of Healy ringing in her ears, and with NSW management backing her to take the reins ahead of the likes of established international Rachael Haynes.
“(Healy) sent a couple of nice messages, which was lovely (given her circumstances),” Darlington said.
“She wanted me to lead the way in terms of how a NSW team plays.
“But it was also just making sure I backed my skills at the end of the day and played the same game of cricket I always will.”
Friday’s match also marked the first time a domestic cricket team had three Indigenous players, with Darlington, Ashleigh Gardner and debutant Anika Learoyd lining up for the Breakers.
NSW are still winless after three matches, putting their Australian sporting record of 24 straight grand finals at serious risk.
Coach Dominic Thornely has told the youngsters to create their own legacy, with NSW likely needing victories in their final five games.
“The players around my age group all knew the Breakers as the team that won 10 years in a row and had that team that was really successful,” Darlington said.
“So we’re just trying to create that same environment.”