Source: Don Miles for the ECB

An exclusive interview with Kate Cross by Neil Golding

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Kate Cross didn’t have far to look for sporting inspiration – her dad, David, was an FA Cup winner. A revered striker in his heyday, David helped West Ham beat Arsenal in 1980 in front of 90,000 fans at Wembley.

That winning mentality clearly rubbed off on his daughter, with Kate having dedicated herself to her craft and carving out her own distinguished career as one of England’s most respected cricket stars.

A decade after making her international debut for her country, the Ashes-winning 32-year-old is understandably delighted with how far women’s cricket has grown since its inception – and rightly proud of the significant role she has played in that growth and success.

The last ten years have moved so exponentially, it’s hard to have imagined that the women’s game could have moved so quickly,” reflected Cross, ahead of England’s forthcoming T20 and One-Day International series away to New Zealand (19 March – 7 April).

England play the White Ferns in five T20 contests next month in Dunedin, Nelson and Wellington, followed by three ODIs – one in Wellington and two in Hamilton, before a shorter home series with Pakistan in May.

“Women’s cricket is massive now, but when I started playing cricket for Lancashire we’d have six county games in a season – and that was it,” added Cross. “Now it feels like a special time when we get a weekend off, or a week here of there to get away and relax. That’s hard to come by now with the calendar being so busy.”

But it’s great there are so many opportunities, the game has changed enormously. People often ask me where it will be in the next five or ten years, which is difficult to answer given the speed of growth so far.

“I think what’s so special about cricket is that the game has never actually stood still, there’s always been something that has developed. I remember when Twenty20 cricket first came in that seemed like a big, bold move. people were sceptical of the format, but T20 revolutionised the game. It helped pave the way for The Hundred.”

There is room for all the formats, but for me it’s a case of making sure they all get enough spotlight and none of them get left behind.

There are more opportunities than ever before at elite level, with the Women’s Premier League (WPL) in India, Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) in Australia and The Hundred in the UK offering players the chance to shine across an array of formats.

Throw in a thriving UK county game and strong international scene and it’s easy to see why women’s cricket has captured the imagination.

Just like England’s footballing Lionesses, Cross hopes the England women’s cricket team can achieve a landmark win to elevate the sport to even greater heights.

“I think women’s sport is growing all over the country, but the Lionesses’ have really led the charge with their Euros success,” added Cross. “Winning things obviously helps, The Lionesses winning the Euros was huge for women’s football – and that’s what we’re craving now.”

“We want to win an Ashes or ICC Trophy, we want to win a trophy and the country to be proud of an achievement like that. So many people bought into our recent Ashes series with Australia, you’re constantly craving those events to pull the crowds in.”

“Australia have always been the front-runner, their success over the last ten years has been unparalleled. They’ll go down as one of the greatest teams that have ever been, but what we’ve seen now in the last 12-18 months in the bigger picture of women’s cricket, is that a lot of teams are starting to beat the top teams.”

“On our day, if we play our best cricket, then we can beat any team in the world.”

England are targeting success in the T20 World Cup in Bangladesh in September and October. They won the first edition of the competition in 2009 but have never won the event since then, having frustratingly lost three finals to arch-rivals Australia in 2012, 2014 and 2018 respectively.

Australia have won six of the eight T20 World Cups so far – but Cross believes England have a different winning mentality and can challenge their dominance.

“Men’s cricket is an entertainment business now, that’s how they see it now – and so do we in the women’s team,” said Cross. “It feels like the men’s team have changed Test cricket completely [with Baz-ball], but they haven’t, they’re just playing a different style of cricket, one which is very entertaining and has given them the mindset of wanting to win all the time.”

“Our new coach Jon Lewis wanted to change our mindset when he came in, he wanted us to entertain and inspire people.”

“He’s changed the focus from the result of the game, to us enjoying ourselves and creating something that people want to come and watch. That’s almost important as the winning. It sounds cheesy to say, but he’s taken away the fear of failure.”

“Ironically, the bi-product of that is that we’ve started to win more – beating teams like Australia in crunch games in front of big crowds. It was great beating them, but we celebrated selling out an ODI series – and we sold out Lords’, Edgbaston and the Oval.”

“That’s a measure of our success as well, it’s not just about how many runs we score and how many wickets we take.”

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