As Canada’s women cricketers prepare to head out on the road towards next year’s Women’s T20 Cricket World Cup, one of their players is poised to make history in the sport.

Danielle McGahey, who is transgender, has been named in the national-team squad for a qualifying tournament that will be held at Woodley Park in Los Angeles, starting Monday.

If, as expected, the 29-year-old takes to the field in the opener against Brazil, she will be the first out trans woman to play in an official international cricket match.

The Australian-born player has been a member of the squad since 2022 and participated in October’s four-team South American Championships, from which Canada emerged victorious after being invited as guests.

According to a BBC Sport article, McGahey emigrated to Canada in early 2020 and began her transition towards the end of that year.

In the interim period, she linked up with a club in Regina, Saskatchewan.

“I came down to one session and the season was basically over,” said McGahey, who is an all-rounder, predominantly a batter but who also occasionally bowls off-spin.

“But the next year came around and I had the itch. I reached out and said: ‘Hey, you saw me once last year. I look a little bit different now, I go by Danielle.’

“I was hoping no-one remembered me, but they all did. It was really, really nerve-wracking.”

However, she was encouraged to continue with the club and was soon reaching out to the Alberta Women’s Cricket League to find more opportunities to play.

That put her on a pathway towards playing in an inter-province tournament and she subsequently received a call-up to the national team.

Danielle McGahey (second from right) celebrates victory with her Prairies teammates in the National T20 Championship in August 2022 (image: Cricket Canada)

In an interview with CBC Sports in July, she explained how the AWCL was “still in the process of expanding and growing” but that opportunities for players were increasingly opening up.

McGahey’s experiences in women’s cricket have been overwhelmingly positive, she says.

She began her medical transition in May 2021 and has fulfilled all the eligibility criteria required by the sport’s global governing body, the International Cricket Council (ICC).

Requirements include a written and signed declaration that the player’s gender identity is female; and ongoing blood tests that prove a concentration of testosterone at or below 5 nanomoles per liter.

McGahey says she must also be transparent about her performance – “I have to put in my player profile who I have played against and how many runs I’ve scored” – and that all the information she provides is routinely checked by the ICC’s dedicated medical officer who submits it to a decision-making panel of experts.

In a statement, the ICC said: “We can confirm that Danielle went through the process as required under the ICC’s player eligibility regulations and as a result has been deemed eligible to participate in international women’s cricket on the basis that she satisfies the MTF transgender eligibility criteria.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Cricket Canada said: “Danielle’s selection was based on ICC’s player eligibility regulations for male-to-female transgender players.

“Danielle sent through her application to the ICC and Cricket Canada followed the process as per the ICC rules, which made Danielle’s selection to the Canadian team possible.”

As for McGahey’s experiences as a player, they have found women’s cricket at all levels to be welcoming, with both teammates and opposition players making her feel included.

“I can’t recall a single negative experience, particularly on the field or off the field with my team. Everyone has been incredibly supportive,” McGahey said.

“I’m very open about my transitioning and for me, it is all about inspiring the next and the next, and going from there.”

She says she is “absolutely honoured” to have the chance to represent her community at international level in the sport she loves.

Danielle McGahey in action in the Alberta Women’s Cricket League (image: Facebook)

Hosts USA and Argentina are the other teams taking part in the qualifying tournament in Los Angeles. The winners will go into a group stage followed by play-offs, with only two ‘Global Qualifier’ spots available at the World Cup itself in Bangladesh next year.

McGahey acknowledges there will be opposition to her participation, particularly as her cricket journey attracts wider interest.

Having first played at the sport at the age of four, she is confident in her batting technique and does not believe that her prowess is dependent on power.

“The perceived strength advantage that trans women have is exactly that – it’s perceived,” she said.

“I’ve been playing cricket for 25 years. I know if I’d just picked up a bat last week, I wouldn’t be able to hit the ball like I hit the ball.”

McGahey’s imminent milestone achievement in cricket has been applauded by Natalie Washington, who is a spokesperson on trans inclusion for Pride Sports UK.

Washington leads the organisation’s Football v Transphobia initiative and is regularly invited to speak in the media and at conferences about participation policies in various sports and her own experiences as a trans woman.

“This is great news for trans people involved in, or wanting to get involved in, organised sport,” she told Outsports.

“Many sports have recently taken the decision to ban trans women from competing in women’s categories, and so it is great to see cricket maintaining space for us – particularly given it is a sport where skill and technique are paramount, and where many people participate in mixed competition on a weekly basis.”