There is no such thing as a “Man’s Game” anymore. Kate Haskell talks to Heather Knight.
There is no such thing as a “Man’s Game” anymore. Rugby, football, golf; you name it, us women can play it and play it well and this month’s Inspirational Woman has shown the world of cricket that anything they can do, she can do better.
Heather Knight is now the captain of the England women’s cricket team but growing up she had to play nicely with the boys, proving herself all the while as she shares with me: “My brother started playing cricket first and I was the annoying little sister that decided to copy him. We both joined the Plymstock cricket team and for a while I also played football and was part of the Plymouth Argyle Women’s Academy.
I very nearly gave up cricket to concentrate on the football but soon realised I wasn’t really fast enough and cricket was the game I loved.”
Growing up, sport featured heavily in Heather’s family with holidays that were always very sporty, encouraging plenty of arguments: “We were all very competitive,” Heather laughs, “but it was really watching my Mum play a lot of squash and see her playing against men and beating them that made it normal to me that you could compete against men and win!”
For a while being one of the boys was something Heather just had to get on with despite perhaps feeling the odd one out: “I used to play in a lot of mixed teams and played for the boy’s team as well. Most people were very accepting although there was the odd comment from the old codgers in the Devon League; being called sweetheart and the joke about doing the ironing at the end of the match!”
As you can imagine the changing facilities were not great at a lot of venues, so changing in the toilets whilst the boys had the nice changing rooms was a regular thing for Heather along with always having to prove herself: “It wasn’t always easy because in cricket you can get out cheaply and not do as well as you would like so that was tough going. I wanted to score as many runs as possible and prove I was good enough to be there.”
One thing this did though was toughen Heather up and make her ready for the big time which came calling just as she was in her second term at university studying Bio Medical Science: “I had been selected for the South of England team (as it was called then) and, whilst it is easier now, at the time it was hard to get noticed living in Devon as they were in the lower league.
However, at 19 years old, I got called up and asked to play for England but I had to fly out the very next day to India as someone was injured. I just put a voicemail on my tutor’s phone and left to make my debut.”
From then on Heather has never looked back and in 2016 was made captain of the team. In the last few years the women’s team has turned professional and so now it is a full-time paid job and one that Heather is relishing.
“Winning the World Cup on home soil was obviously such a career highlight for me but there are always so many series in cricket and always something to look forward to.”
As for home life; boyfriend Tim is very understanding but also tries to travel with Heather as much as work will allow and her parents could not be prouder: “My parents still live in Plymstock and try to come to as many games as they can.
“They have been so supportive, driving me around to all the games as a kid and they are a huge part of getting me to where I am now. Sadly, though, I don’t get home to Devon as much as I would like.”
For now though Heather can’t see herself ever being “out” of the game: “I would love to stay in the game for as long as possible and I definitely won’t be going back to Bio Medical Science as I can’t remember any of it!”
Who inspires Heather?
My mum has been a huge inspiration to me for making being a sportswoman look normal but also because she is such a resilient character, steady and reliable. I have looked up to her a lot.
Denise Lewis is another because she always had a smile on her face when competing and made it look like she was having fun.
My advice to anyone is to relax and enjoy it and not take yourself too seriously. I am always playing at my best when I am concentrating but enjoying the game
Photo credit: Getty Images