With women’s cricket expecting a big year, we caught up with England’s vice-captain Anya Shrubsole to reflect on last season and chat about their status as role-models.
Going into a pretty big 2017 for the women’s game – and given the changes England underwent last year – how do you look back on last summer?
It was an amazing summer, I don’t think things could have gone any better. The way we played against Pakistan is how we want to continue. We will come up against some stiffer challenges but it was a good start and a good confidence builder. We set down a marker for how we want to play in the future.
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It was probably the first time that as a team you went into a summer under pressure. Did it feel all the better to have proved one or two doubters wrong?
Oh, absolutely. I think everyone knew there was potentially going to be a few more eyes on us. So, to actually turn around and succeed far beyond what people were expecting makes it that extra bit special. We always had that belief within the team that we were capable of what we showed and it was just a case of going out there and showing people that.
There were a few fringe players, like Tammy Beaumont and Lauren Winfield, who stepped up and dominated for you. That must have been a great thing for the team?
Yes, massively. With the players that we have lost there was always going to be that extra responsibility on the likes of Tammy and Lauren, who had been on the fringes. They actually had a decent amount of international experience behind them but they hadn’t necessarily shown how good they can be until last summer. That was one of the really pleasing things for us as a team, for the likes of Tammy and Lauren to come out and bat how we, as a squad, know they can.
You missed out through injury in the West Indies, but how have you enjoyed being vice-captain?
Yeah, it’s massively enjoyable. It’s a huge honour to be vice-captain of your country. Heather and I have played together for a number of years and it’s just been really enjoyable. She does most of it, I’m just there doing bits and pieces where she needs me to help. We work together really well and, being with Western Storm as well, it’s even more opportunity to keep working on that partnership between us and hopefully we can help England as much as possible.
How did you find the inaugural Kia Super League (KSL)?
It was a really enjoyable tournament, it went as we would have hoped and there were some really good games, some really close games. One of the points behind the KSL is getting players used to playing in high pressure games and we were definitely involved in a few of those.
How impressed were you with some of the domestic players who stood out and made a name for themselves?
The brilliant part about it was people who maybe weren’t so well known, who aren’t internationals, stepped up and people took notice of them. Heather and I said quite early on that it might come down to those players because England players and the international players cancel each other out a little bit. Linsey Smith is probably the best example of someone who wasn’t even originally in their XV, she came in through injury and took the tournament by storm. That’s one of the really pleasing things and shows how good the quality of cricket in England is.
For us, Freya Davies bowled really well, especially in the first game against Lancashire. It’s obviously challenging being a powerplay bowler and at times you’re going to get whacked – particularly when you’re bowling at the likes of Suzie Bates and Dane van Niekerk. Some days you might take a little bit of a punishing but one of the really pleasing things about Freya is that she came back, took the new ball every game and looked to put things right.
Part of the KSL this year will be on TV, and then of course there’s the World Cup. How do you find being a role-model to young girls?
I think it’s a hugely important part of an international cricketer’s role and there are so many parts to it. Firstly, there’s inspiring people in the way that you play then there’s obviously going and actually doing coaching sessions and things with the kids. That’s one of the things that was really good about the KSL. I know down at Western Storm we had three or four coaching camps and we were able to speak to the girls. My parents always have to remind me how much of an influence I have because I see myself as a fairly ordinary person, I just play cricket and sometimes I forget the impact that an international cricketer can have. During the KSL we had some really good crowds at Bristol and Taunton and it’s brilliant to see the girls who were at a coaching camp come to the games.
How excited are you about the World Cup?
Women’s cricket is growing all the time and this will be the biggest World Cup. One of the areas where England appears to be ahead of everyone else is the kind of crowds and the kind of support that we get over here. That was shown in the Ashes in 2015, selling out Hove and selling out Chelmsford, but I’m yet to encounter that around the world, although you’re unlikely to sell out the MCG.
And, as vice-captain, you’d probably get your hands on the trophy second, were England to win. Have you ever thought about what that would be like, lifting the World Cup trophy at Lord’s?
Well, I normally hide at the back for things like that so I’m not sure I will get my hands on it second! There’s no doubt about it, though, we’re there to win and we want to win. If we could win on home soil it would just be that little bit more special.