Alice Davidson-Richardson feared her England career was over at just 23 years old. The all-rounder from Kent made her debut against India in 2018 – a sole one-day international followed by five Twenty 20s against Australia.
Struggling to cement her place in a competitive side, she was awarded a rookie contract by England in 2019 but was not called up again. But four years later, it’s time for round two. Davidson-Richards is one of five potential debutants named in England’s Test squad to face South Africa, and she could not be happier.
“I was driving to training when I got the call to tell me I was in the squad,” she says. “I rang my mum and I was crying.
“My mum was saying: ‘Is everything OK? What’s happened? Have you had an accident?’ I had to tell her: ‘No, it’s good news!'” Davidson-Richards oozes confidence and positivity. She is always smiling, and her optimism is contagious. You can hear her smile even through a phone call.
She is even grateful for the difficult period that followed her international debut and for the change in perspective it has given her.
“There were some really rubbish times in those couple of years,” she said. “So the call-up made me a lot more emotional than I thought I would be, especially telling my parents who have been there with me throughout.
“If I went back now and told myself in those days that it would all be worth it, that this was going to happen, I really don’t think I would have believed it. Happy doesn’t cover how I feel.”
The call-up is the result of four years of hard work with an added dose of uncertainty after her previous England appearances. While she had the security of the rookie contract for a year, Davidson-Richards was working as a personal trainer alongside it, with thoughts that she may have to take up employment elsewhere. But in 2020, she was able to fulfil her dream of becoming a professional cricketer, when England and Wales Cricket Board introduced domestic contracts for the first time.
Until then, the only way to earn a living as a cricketer was if you played for England.
Now 28 and into her third year as a professional with her region South East Stars, she knows she is ready for her second chance.
“I definitely had the skills to do it,” Davidson-Richards says of her debut. “And I don’t think it was the wrong time, because sometimes people make their debut at that age and they flourish, but I’m more confident and a much more rounded person now.”