England’s offie Laura Marsh has for 11 years been a part of the England team that’s now desperate to lift the World Cup trophy on home soil. We chatted about getting into cricket and the changes she’s seen in that time.
Let’s go back to the beginning – why was it cricket for you?
My brother played at school and my dad played a little bit. I used to play every sport in the garden with my brother – and there was a lot of cricket. We smashed a lot of windows, which our mum wasn’t very pleased about!
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I went to county trials when I was about 11 and then started playing county cricket. I played in the boys’ team at prep school until I was about 13 and then I got a cricket scholarship to Brighton College. Obviously I was quite attracted to Brighton College because Clare Connor was working there at the time. After that I joined Brighton & Hove Cricket Club, they were one of the few club teams at the time that had a girls’ section and I went from there.
Do you remember what it was that meant cricket won out over the other sports?
It’s tricky really. I played a lot of hockey as well – they were my two main sports – and I had to choose at about the age of 16. I’m not really sure what it was that took me down the cricket route but I know that I used to love running in and bowling at my brother, and I loved batting as well. Actually, we worked out the other day that out of our current England squad only one of us (Danni Hazell) doesn’t have an older brother!
So initially you were playing in boys’ teams, what was that like?
At school the boys were pretty good, they didn’t really mind too much, it was more the parents! They could sometimes get a bit protective, especially if their son was bowled out by a little 11-year-old me; they weren’t too chuffed about it! When I moved on to senior school I went on a tour to Barbados, I would have been about 13, and I remember bowling to some 18-year-old guys from Barbados. I got a few comments from them about being a girl bowling but my teammates were always very supportive. I guess they were happy to have me in the side because I was there because I was good enough.
I played boys’ cricket for the first couple of years that I was at Brighton College but by that time the club set-up had grown a bit more for women’s cricket. I stopped playing boys’ cricket then and started playing women’s cricket on Sundays for Brighton & Hove. There’s a few faces I started playing against back then who I still see. Because everyone’s friends on Facebook these days I’ve had quite a few 10-year anniversaries coming up recently! I’ve known Jenny Gunn and Lydia Greenway for quite some time; it’s funny how quickly the time goes.
Where do you feel the women’s game is at at the moment?
We’re in a really fortunate position, where we are now. Having experienced playing for England over the last 10 years and seeing how much it’s changed, we’ve become more important as players. When the games are on television, and we’re hosting the World Cup, we’ve got a real responsibility to act as role-models for the younger girls coming through. Hopefully the way we go about playing – and enjoying playing – comes across because that’s primarily the reason why we all play. We didn’t used to get paid much at all and everybody played purely for the love of the game which I think is a really special thing. We really enjoy playing together and we’ve got a great camaraderie amongst the group.
What’s been the biggest change since your first days in the side?
The standard has definitely improved but I think that comes down to the support we’ve had from the ECB. Obviously becoming professional just over three years ago has allowed us to train full-time as cricketers and that increased time spent on practice has up-skilled us and improved us a team. Being able to work on all aspects of our game – be it fitness or fielding – has probably been the biggest difference over the time.
I feel like a better cricketer now. I know myself as a cricketer and I’m very lucky to have worked with some brilliant coaches over the years. Some of the coaches who are working with us now are fantastic – we’re really lucky and we’ve got some great resources.
How has Mark Robinson changed things in the England camp?
He’s come from men’s cricket and he’s very experienced. He came with a fresh pair of eyes and with his own views on things. It was unfortunate for Charlotte that he made the decision that he did. She’s had a phenomenal career and she’ll be remembered as one of England’s best-ever players so it was sad to see her step down but that gave Heather the opportunity to take over. With Robbo’s influence we’ve had a real push on the fitness and fielding side of things and we’ve got a goal to be the fittest England side there’s ever been. Hopefully that will allow us to become the No.1 side in the world again.
You’re one of four or five very good English spin bowlers, how is it being part of such a competitive group?
Well I guess that’s another thing that’s changed over the years. Five or 10 years ago there weren’t that many players knocking on the door. It was a fairly settled squad of players – there were 13 of us really – and you sort of almost knew who would play each game. Obviously now there are more girls playing the game and more girls wanting to play for England and that’s created a greater pool of players for the coaches to choose from.
It’s really exciting for the game and, you’re right, the spin department is very healthy! And it’s great for me as well, as a senior player and someone who’s been around for a while it’s great to have that pressure from the younger players and that’ll keep on improving my game. Primarily my role is to perform for England but I try and pass on any experience that I’ve got, as does Danni Hazell.
Have you already got one eye on the World Cup final at Lord’s?
I think the women’s game is in an incredibly healthy situation. There are lots of teams who can turn up on their day and beat anyone, as the West Indies recently proved at the T20 World Cup. There are probably four or five teams who are very competitive, obviously Australia are probably favourites for the World Cup and New Zealand pushed them very hard in the recent Rose Bowl series as well. It will be a tough competition and a hard one to predict!