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Heather Knight England Cricket Captain Interview

Heather Knight: “There's Opportunities in Cricket Regardless of Sex or Ethnicity"

CARDIFF, WALES - AUGUST 20: Heather Knight of London Spirit looks on prior to The Hundred match between Welsh Fire Women and London Spirit Women at Sophia Gardens on August 20, 2023 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Ryan Hiscott - ECB/ECB via Getty Images)
Image Source: Getty

When Heather Knight was growing up, there wasn't a professional structure for women's cricket. "I knew there was a team but they weren't really on the telly, so I didn't know a huge amount about them," she tells PS UK. In recent years, things have drastically changed for the sport. Knight has been the captain of the England women's cricket team for almost eight years, and has seen the team through many highs, like winning the 2017 World Cup in Lourdes, which led to being awarded an OBE for steering her team to victory.

The England cricket captain sits down with PS UK and talks about what it's really like to be captain, representation, the Lionesses, and the need for greater diversity in British cricket.

How Did You Get Into Cricket?

Knight: I have an older brother and I used to copy everything he did. At primary school he used to play cricket and joined our local clubs. So, I went along and played and just fell in love with the sport, not just the competitive aspect of it, but also being part of the team and hanging out in the sun during the summer. I got into it through the grassroot clubs route - but I played a lot more men's cricket than women's cricket back then. Now, there's a lot more opportunity for girls to get involved in women's cricket and so many more clubs and so many more options.

How Important Is Funding For Grassroots Clubs in Cricket?

Heather: It's really important. I wouldn't have a career without them. I've really learned a lot at my local club and without them I wouldn't of had all these opportunities. I think the club game so important and you've got so many volunteers involved at the club level as well that have sparked that interest in in young kids to get going in cricket. So yes, absolutely essential part of the game. It's really cool now that the games, particularly the women's game, is growing and girls that have the interest in the sport hopefully have a structure to go into now that gives them a path to keep progressing.

You've Been in the Captaincy Position For Almost Eight Years. Do You Still Enjoy It?

Heather: Wow, yes this summer it will be eight years. I still enjoy it. I feel like I've learned a lot about myself being captain and I've learned a lot about my teammates. It's really cool to be able to shape a team and mould them in a certain direction. I feel like I'm still learning and trying to be a better captain. Also, being in the role for eight years, you have to evolve and change how you do things based on the team that you have. You also have to try and get the best out of the group of people around you and help them to fulfil their potential and keep pushing the team forward. I'm still enjoying it. I've obviously done it for a long time, but it's a role that I love doing. I feel like I'm making an impact.

What Pressures Come With Being The Captain?

Heather: I think leadership can sometimes be quite lonely. There's naturally always a little bit of water between myself and the team. That's how it has to be though because I'm usually involved in decisions around selection and roles and things like that. So yeah, sometimes it can be lonely. Also, when it's not going well I do feel the pressure but I've learned to deal with that and use the people around me and use senior players on the side to get that support and get their input. There's naturally an added pressure as captain. You're the one that does the press interviews after a game when you lose - but you just take it on as part of the job and you get used it. I guess there's downsides to it but when the team are successful and when you do really well, it makes it all worth it.

Women's Sport Is on the Rise - We've Seen the Success of the Lionesses. Do you Think Women's Cricket Gets The Same Backing? If Not, What Changes Do You Hope to See in Future?

Heather: It's amazing what's going on in women's sport and I think football is leading the way. I'm a big Arsenal fan, I went to the women's game at the Emirates this year and to see that sold out is really cool for a domestic game - 60,000 people! To see what the Lionesses have done is incredible. We've definitely talked about wanting to make the same impact that they have and to replicate their success. Also, the things they've achieved off of the field as well, like using their victory to write a letter to 10 Downing Street and The Prime Minister, asking for more women's football in schools is quite cool. It also feels like women's sports teams are really supportive of each other and it feels like we're going through a bit of a moment in terms of the momentum. As cricket players, we also want to be at the forefront of this movement as well. We want to help inspire young girls to come and play the game. It's really cool where women's sport is going and we want to play a part in that.

There's Been Conversations Around the Need For Greater Diversity Within the England Cricket Team. What Needs to Be Done Behind the Scenes to Achieve This?

Heather: I totally agree. I think that's a very fair judgement. With the players that have come in [to the England team] there have been obstacles to get past anyway so, there's been even less opportunity for people from diverse backgrounds. There's some brilliant stuff that The Ace Programme Charity (ACE) are doing. She's doing some awesome stuff in terms of getting access to different ethnic groups to encourage them to play cricket. Cricket needs to be more accessible - I think cricket has a reputation for being a bit posh and a bit snobby. However, I think that's starting to change. Then hopefully people that get involved in the sport see that that's not the case. There's loads of opportunities in cricket regardless of your sex or ethnicity — everyone's welcome.

I'm currently at a tape ball event, which originated in Pakistan and is played a lot in South South Asian communities. It's really cool to get different communities having access to the game. Tape ball is cheap too, you don't need much equipment. The cost of equipment is also a big barrier for diverse communities getting involved in cricket too. So, lots of things still need to change but there's a lot of really good work being done. I'm from a state school as well and I want kids from state school to be involved in in cricket and have the opportunities too.

What Is It Really Like Being a Woman in Sport?

I think it's changed so much and developed throughout my career. There's been a really big shift in terms of mentality. It's important for women to be treated equally, and not just be grateful but push harder so that things improve for future generations. Equal access to opportunities is the biggest thing and for my generation, women had to go against the odds to play sport. It does feel like there's still a lot of work to do. There are still things that need to be better - there's still inequalities and misogyny in sport. Hopefully things will continue to change and move in the right direction for women's sport.

Aaliyah Harry (she/her) is the associate editor at PS UK. She writes extensively across lifestyle, culture and beauty. Aaliyah also has a deep passion for telling stories and giving voice to the voiceless. Previously, she has contributed to Refinery29, Grazia UK and The Voice Newspaper.

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