Speaking to All Out Cricket shortly before flying out for the Women’s Ashes, England captain Heather Knight says Australia are still the best team in the world but her side are brimming with confidence after their World Cup exploits.
After a World Cup win on home soil and a Kia Super League title, could 2017 have gone any better for you so far?
It’s gone brilliantly. What a 2017 it’ll be if we can win the Ashes as well. We’ve tried to draw a line under the World Cup, as special as it was. As a team we wanted to move on quite quickly. We had a taste of success at Lord’s in that World Cup final and if we can do that away from home as well it will be very special.
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The squad seems to have a really good blend of youth and experience. Are you confident that will stand you in good stead in Australia?
Yeah, I think so. We’ve got a lot of players who have toured Australia before and have great memories from the last time we were there in 2013. We’ve got a real core of players in their mid-20s who can be around for a long time together. The likes of Tammy Beaumont, Nat Sciver, myself, Danni Wyatt, Georgia Elwiss, the list goes on. We’ve still got a long way to go as a team but for me as captain it’s really exciting what we could go on to achieve, and Australia’s the next challenge. I think they’re still the best team in the world, despite the World Cup. We saw how closely the teams were matched in that game at Bristol – three runs in it, an absolute nail-biter – and I think this series is going to be the same. We’re going to have to play very, very well to beat them.
What are the main challenges of playing in Australia?
Obviously there is the heat. Last time we played in a Test match at Perth and it was 46 degrees pretty much throughout. And when you’re out in Australia it really does feel like once people know you’re a cricketer everyone’s against you. Everyone’s supporting their team and it can be quite a hostile environment. But it’s also a brilliant place to tour. There’s a chance to get away from the game out there, which I think is so important on an Ashes tour.
When you heard that your opposing skipper Meg Lanning was ruled out of the series, how did that make you feel? Did you have conflicting emotions?
Yeah, a little bit. Meg’s obviously one of the best players in the world and when you win you want to win against the best players in the world. But she will be a massive loss for them and it does improve our chances. They’ve still got so many quality batsmen, though. That’s their real strength I think. Australia have got so much strength and depth in their batting line-up and I’m sure they’ll find a way to replace her. They’ll have a new captain in Rachael Haynes and I’ll be captaining my first Ashes series as well, so there are lots of little side-stories going on. It’s going to be a really exciting series.
With the growth in women’s cricket over the last few years and the success of the Women’s Big Bash League, are you expecting this winter’s Ashes to be a bigger event than past series in Australia?
I don’t think the last Ashes series was promoted that well and we didn’t have many people come and watch so you’d hope that would be different this time. We want to play in front of big crowds. That World Cup final at Lord’s was very, very special and we’d love to see the growth of the game continue from that. I think it’s getting there in Australia. They’ve really pumped time and money into the women’s game and you hope that leads to more awareness and bigger crowds.
How much has life changed for you since the World Cup?
It’s been a lot busier, that’s for sure! A lot of the girls have started to get recognised but I think it’s so important that we remain grounded as a team. A lot of us have come from semi-professional roots and it’s really important that we don’t lose that passion and love for the game. As the game gets more professional and younger players come in and are professional straight away, it’s important that the older generation instil that culture that it’s special to play for England, you have to work hard for what you get and remember the game has come a long way.
Are the players enjoying the extra attention?
Some more than others! Anya [Shrubsole] absolutely hates it. She is probably the worst. A few of the girls enjoy it slightly more. We know those opportunities are going to come around more if we keep being successful and the Ashes could be the big icing on the cake for 2017.
Heather Knight was speaking on behalf of the Rwanda Cricket Stadium Foundation (RCSF). If you want to find out more information about RCSF and Cricket Builds Hope, please visit www.rcsf.org.uk. All donations are welcome and much appreciated