Few of us believe we have the best job in the world, but Heather Knight, captain of the England women’s cricket team, claims just that.
This summer, Heather enjoyed her career highlight when she and her team won the Cricket World Cup at Lord’s in England – and this Sunday the squad begin their Ashes campaign in Australia – yet the 26-year-old insists she’s just a normal girl from Devon.
“You just go out and try to win a game of cricket for your team and your country,” Heather tells me as we sit down in London to discuss this year’s wins, “I don’t consider myself particularly inspirational. I never thought I’d be an England cricketer when I was younger, but I always wanted to see how far I could take it and how good I could be.”
In light of her appointment as captain of the England team this year and the side’s almighty triumph, it’s clear Heather can be very good indeed.
England captain Heather is cheered on by fans after the team won the 2017 World Cup.
Heather’s impressive skills don’t come easily, however. She and the team undergo a grueling training schedule. “We train six days a week,” she says. “This includes something physical most days as well as the skills practice. We do weight sessions in the gym two or three times a week along with a few running sessions and bike sessions.
“We’re quite lucky that training for cricket is quite varied what with battling, bowling, fielding and sprinting, but you need to prepare to be in the field for a long time,” she continues. “We wear GPS vests to track and monitor our performance and quite often they show we’ve covered 17-18 kilometers a day running backwards and forwards. You need that kind of endurance plus strength and robustness to deal with cricket.”
So, what’s it like in the lead up to a match? “The day before you try not to do anything too heavy,” Heather tells me. “You just try to make sure your body is in a good place and you’ve done all the skills work you need to.”
Preparation is not just physical, though. “It’s more about getting mentally ready and getting your confidence up,” explains Heather. “In the morning, I try to think: ‘I’ve done all the training, I’ve done all I can,’ and then I try to relax and enjoy the day. I tell myself I just need to try to play to the best of my ability and hopefully it will all be ok!”
The team also benefit from a nutritionist. “Recovery and nutrition is massive,” says Heather, “we play a lot of cricket and obviously, you do a lot of damage to your muscles so it’s important you recover well. It’s really important we look after our bodies so we can recover for the next game. When we have demanding tournaments we actually ‘celebrate’ with ice baths, foam rolling and a protein shake!”
The team hold back on big nights out during competitions, too. “We probably have a maximum of one drink if we’ve got another game coming up, if any at all,” Heather admits. However, when tournaments end, it’s a different matter. “I think it’s important to make the most of your success,” she says, “take the World Cup win – it’s important we enjoyed that. It’s good for the team to share those moments; the memory of how you all celebrated a big win will stay with you for a long time.”
“It was a day a lot of us will remember for a long time,” Heather (pictured here with the team) says of the World Cup win in July.
Heather’s captaincy isn’t just about leading her team to victory, though. “It’s about knowing where the team is at and what they need at a certain time, whether it’s an arm around their shoulder or helping them to relax,” she explains.
“Before we play we always have a huddle which I speak in before we go out into the field. One time my teammate Katherine Brunt actually did a rap to make everyone laugh. She’s got an alter ego called Kathy B who came out in the World Cup semifinal just to try and keep everyone relaxed. As a team, we play the best cricket when we’re calm and having a laugh and that makes us really positive. A pre-game huddle is the best time to instigate that.”
Emotion, as well as laughter, can play a strong role in the run up to a match. Before the World Cup final, Heather remembers some of the girls in tears as they sung the national anthem, and she, too, was moved. “I always see people getting emotional during anthems on TV,” she confides, “and I always think: ‘What a load of rubbish, what are they getting emotional for?’ but it happened to me that day!”
And what about after the match? “When we won the World Cup, the atmosphere was electric,” Heather enthuses. “I’ve been to watch a lot of cricket at Lord’s and I’ve never known anything like it. It was a day a lot of us will remember for a long time. It doesn’t get any better than lifting the World Cup trophy as captain on home soil in front of 28,000 people at Lord’s.”
Heather Knight (left) celebrates the trophy win with teammate Laura Marsh (right).
There’s no quitting while you’re ahead with international sports, however. “It feels hard, when you reach your goal and do something like winning the World Cup,” admits Heather, when I ask how she’ll find the drive to win again. “If we can look back on 2017, having won both the World Cup and the Ashes, it would be very special. I still think Australia are probably the best team in the world and as a squad we’re definitely not the finished article, so I think that’s drive enough.
“The goal is always to get to world number one and stay there and dominate for a long time,” she concludes. So, just the aim of any Devon girl, right Heather?
With the Ashes fast approaching, the England team will play two warm-up fixtures in Brisbane before the first of three One Day Internationals on October 22.
A multi-format structure then continues with a solitary Test, a day-nighter in Sydney and three T20s ending on November 21.
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