Darlington opens up on decision to skip the World Cup

After opting out of a World Cup campaign with Australia, Hannah Darlington is refreshed and eyeing a national recall for next year's T20 tournament in South Africa

It was during a routine net session towards the end of Australia's Ashes campaign that Hannah Darlington realised she needed to take a step away from cricket.

It was late January and the prodigiously talented 20-year-old, who was soon due to depart for New Zealand as a reserve player alongside the one-day World Cup squad, had become increasingly aware that something was amiss.

"It just got to the point where I wasn't quite sure what I was doing there," Darlington, who has penned a new four-year Weber WBBL deal with Sydney Thunder, tells

The pace-bowling allrounder subsequently withdrew from the World Cup touring party, and the remainder of the domestic season, seeking an escape from the game.

"I walked out of the net session and had a moment and realised that at this time, especially early on in my career, it wouldn't have been the best decision to head over (to New Zealand) and continue that grind of finding ways to enjoy sessions," she says.

"It was a hard decision to make; the girls winning a World Cup was awesome to see and it would have been amazing to be a part of.

Darlington's day out on ODI debut

"But knowing that I got to come home and see the family and work on me for a bit, it was definitely the best decision."

That call came at the end of a summer that had been more demanding than anyone could have predicted.

Darlington's meteoric rise has been well documented; she debuted as a 17-year-old for the Sydney Thunder in October 2019 and a year later was named in the team of the tournament as the club claimed its second title.

An Australian call-up for a tour of New Zealand followed in early 2021, by which time Darlington had already become the youngest player to captain New South Wales.

But the 2021-22 season presented even greater challenges; an international debut against India in October came shortly before she was named Thunder skipper for WBBL|07 in the absence of Rachael Haynes, becoming the competition's youngest ever leader.

Bowled her! Darlington rattles stumps in WBBL|07

Darlington grasped those opportunities with both hands, but a stint away from home that started with hotel quarantine in Brisbane in early September and continued during a WBBL season spent entirely on the road due to border closures took a toll.

After another spell of strict bubble conditions during the Ashes, the prospect of a further period of hotel quarantine in New Zealand – and continued restrictions during the tournament itself – proved too much.

The maturity that saw Darlington handed the captaincy of both her state side and Big Bash club while still a teenager also helped her recognise the need to step away.

"For me, it was a big season and having those opportunities throughout the different parts of the season, whether it was with the Aussie team or with the Thunder, and then back to New South Wales, it all just built up pretty quickly, that time away from home," she says.

"The different bubbles and scenarios that took place just really took it out of me and (stepping away) was the best decision I made.

"I went on a few escapes into the country by myself, just to have a bit of time to reflect ... during the season there wasn't really a chance to reflect and recognise the strain and stress I was under in different scenarios during the season.

"To have that chance to come back to family and spend some time with them, and get some travel under the belt ... that was really exciting and really prepared me to get ready for the pre-season that was ahead."

Those escapes included a trip to central Australia, as well as visits to the rural property near Coffs Harbour owned by the family of Thunder teammate, Anika Learoyd.

"I think being locked up in Sydney for so long during some of those lockdowns really has taught me that getting out of the city is a really awesome opportunity and that's (become) a go to for me," she says.

"Coming back this pre-season, I think I would have been in a completely different (place) if I'd headed over to the World Cup."

Despite needing to take a break, the allrounder would not change the experiences of last summer and she remains eager to continue pursuing leadership opportunities when they come her way.

'Up 'til sunrise': Darlington reflects on WBBL|06 Final

"Looking back, I did really enjoy the experience of captaincy, it's something I've always really enjoyed," she says.

"But I think navigating the COVID travelling bubble – we had kids away from home, we had people doing extended stints travelling that had never experienced a Big Bash before – and it was probably a bit more to navigate for a first-year captain then we'd probably anticipated.

"I did try my best to get around the group, but it was difficult at times.

"(But) I had a really good support network around me, and I wouldn't change the scenario at all – looking further into my career, hopefully captaincy is something that comes with that part of my career. It hasn't turned me off it in any way."

Darlington is not part of the 15-player Australia squad travelling to Birmingham for the Commonwealth Games this month, but she has set herself a goal of returning to the national side for next year's T20 World Cup in South Africa.

She will get her chance to impress selectors when the domestic one-day season begins in September, followed by the start of WBBL|08 in mid-October, with the schedule for the 20-over tournament to be revealed on Thursday.

"I've always had my eye on the T20 World Cup in South Africa next year, after being in the crowd at the 2020 final at the MCG, it's been a goal since then," she says.

"After missing the last (tournament) in New Zealand, I'm pretty excited to hopefully get my chance to head over there and give it a good crack in the Big Bash to make a good impression."

Sydney Thunder WBBL|08 squad so far: Sam Bates, Hannah Darlington, Phoebe Litchfield, Olivia Porter, Tahlia Wilson