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When AOC Met Enid Bakewell

Ahead of the Women’s World Cup in India at the end of the month, AOC are releasing a new women’s special, bringing you interviews with some of the best female cricketers on the planet, the lowdown on who to watch out for and the history of the tournament. To whet the appetite, Vithushan Ehantharajah had a chat with the ever-charming Enid Bakewell, 1973 World Cup winner and 2012 inductee into the Cricket Hall of Fame.

It must have been quite daunting to be playing in a first ever cricket World Cup. Looking back on what’s happened since, has the importance of that first women’s World Cup settled in?

I suppose it has, especially seeing how great England and Australia are at the moment. Women’s cricket wasn’t really on the map at that time – I mean, at one time, they weren’t even going to let a woman score in the scorebox! Imagine that? Rachael Heyhoe Flint’s idea of playing a World Cup was to provide a spectacle that we could take all around the country, to spread the message about women’s cricket. It certainly wasn’t taken seriously.

Did that spur you on as a team – to produce a performance that made people sit up and take notice?

Well I reckon the girls are still trying to do it now! This morning on BBC TV they were going on about why there are not so many girls doing PE and I’m there thinking, ‘Because you don’t bloody show any women’s sport!’ I’m going to ring them up tomorrow if they don’t put any women sports on! They show football, horse racing – anything you can bet on or that’s man-orientated. When we toured in 1968 and 1969, they wouldn’t go on about the technique or skills of the women. There was a headline: “Skipper Loses Lucky Bra!” Nothing to do with the cricket!

Was there a lot of support leading up to the tournament?

Yes and no. There were people who were surprised at what we were doing and wished us well. I’m sure some, though they never mentioned it publicly, were looking for it to fail. But we got a lot of support from cricket people – Bob Willis even came and bowled at us for our practice nets, which was nice of him.

How did you fare against him?

I didn’t face him. I’m not stupid…

Ha! Jack Hayward was a major driving force behind the World Cup, along with Rachael Heyhoe Flint. Did you know about Jack before his involvement?

I hadn’t heard of him, no, but I’m ever so grateful to him. He’s a lovely, lovely man who’s so down to earth for someone of his wealth. When Rachael went to meet Jack about the idea, she assumed she’d be meeting a bigwig, drinking champagne and eating caviar. But when she got to his office, he was having a beer and some cheese sandwiches. They were great as a team – Rachael  is a real character. I was her vice-captain in 1973 so we shared a room together and I ended up waking her up quite a lot in the middle of the night! But she was always very sweet about it.

Restless sleeper?

No – I had three children by the 1973 World Cup and someone suggested to me that I start taking the pill because we couldn’t afford the three, let alone any more! But I used to forget and have to wake up in the middle of the night to take it, and I always used to wake her up, without fail.

Can happen… erm, what was Rachael like as a captain?

She was always busy. “It’s not the cricket that wears you out, it’s entertaining the troops,” Rachael used to say. She’d come in at the end of the game, report to The Telegraph, ring home, have a shower and change, then she’d get her ukelele out and entertain us in the evening. She could make things happen – both on and off the field. She made you believe you could do anything she asked you to do.

With a big family – one you were ensuring didn’t get bigger! – was it hard playing in the competition and looking after your kids?

It wasn’t easy – I was traipsing around the country to play these games! My mother had passed away so I had my dad who was going around with the children or I’d leave them at home, but my other half isn’t very good with children. But he got used to looking after them when I would go out training. I tried to do as much training as I could and a lot of the time that just included doing interval training in the nearby area along the roads. But it was hard just getting around everywhere yourself. Travelling to one of the matches in Essex in my old Anglia, I got stopped by the police because my tax disc wasn’t on. It turned out that somebody had nicked it while I was shopping and the policeman asked me to produce my papers in the next three days. “I’m not going home in three days,” I told him, “I’m playing for England in the World Cup.” He didn’t believe me and I had to get out my England blazer to show him that I wasn’t lying!

Enid Bakewell taking it to the Aussies
 Enid taking it to the Aussies at the inaugural World Cup

Talk us through your 118 in the final against Australia – not bad for someone whose main strength is left-arm spin?

Yes that’s right – although I did score hundreds, I’d say my forte was left-arm spin. I used to jokingly say, “If you toss the ball in the air high enough, a woman will change her mind three times!” It’s true – that’s how I got my wickets.  That hundred was one of the highlights of my career, and to do it in the final was extra special. We were a great team, but it must be said that Australia at the time didn’t know how to set a field. I picked the gaps and scored my runs and luckily enough we won the match.

And are you still playing now?

Indeed I am – at 72, I’m still playing. I usually open the bowling because I keep the run-rate down and I’m not too fussed with batting because I can’t move as quickly as I used to. But whenever there’s a collapse the skipper still turns to me and says, “Get your pads on!” You never lose it, do you?

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