How life has changed for England’s women one year after World Cup win

When an engaging fly-on-the-wall account of the 2015 season of England’s women’s cricketers was published, its title – The Girls of Summer – jarred a little. Sure, the Women’s Ashes series of that year brought with it improved coverage. But as far as stories of the summer went, Charlotte Edwards’s ultimately unsuccessful charges were well back in the pack.

Where there could be no quibbling about the use of that label was two years on. Punctuated by a pulsating World Cup victory by the hosts at a Lord’s venue sold out in all areas bar the stuffy old pavilion, Heather Knight’s side delivered the moment both of the cricket summer and the moment of a generation who had only turned professional three years earlier.

The Sky TV broadcast of the helter-skelter final stanza earned more viewers than any moment during the international season – full stop. That global audience maxed out at 180 million as Anya Shrubsole claimed the final of her six wickets before leaning back with arms unfurled in an image that could easily have adorned the cover of Wisden Almanack had a later shot of the seamer holding the trophy not been selected instead – the first woman to be featured in that way.

That same venerated book appointed three of the England world champions members of their esteemed five cricketers of the year. In the history of that honour, only two women had ever been included. Come awards season, acceptance remarks were fine-tuned, with the squad nabbing Team of the Year at the BBC sports personality of the year awards before claiming similar gongs from BT Sport, the Sports Journalists’ Association, the Women’s Sport Trust and practically anyone else giving one out.

Anya Shrubsole celebrates bowling out India’s Rajeshwari Gayakwad to win the World Cup

Anya Shrubsole celebrates bowling out India’s Rajeshwari Gayakwad to win the World Cup. Photograph: John Sibley/Action Images via Reuters

“Quite naively, I like to think life isn’t too different,” Shrubsole responds a year on from the afternoon that changed everything. “I pride myself on trying to stay quite grounded. I went through a spell, especially in December, where life seemed to be a bit crazy going to various awards but I would say that it has settled back into a nice, normal routine.”

Maybe so: cricket is not a particularly good industry for finish lines. However, as Tammy Beaumont explains, it was also a triumph that bolstered the case for a pay hike of up to 50% that made a very real difference. “I am in a position where I have bought my first house,” says the opener, who topped the list for World Cup runs. “Four years ago I couldn’t have managed that. People think we are now big celebrities on big bucks but it isn’t that. It is more life-changing to get on the property ladder.”

As for Nat Sciver, the undisputed queen of the Cup for capturing countless headlines due to the shot she repeatedly played through her legs (dubbed the Natmeg) it was simpler than that: just getting identified accurately.

“For someone who can go from not being very well known and [people] not knowing how to pronounce my surname to appearing on the back pages was pretty crazy,” the Surrey captain recalls. As for that shot? “It got blown out of proportion really but people jumped on it. It was brilliant how something small can become so big.”

The most experienced campaigner in the side, the 33-year-old Katherine Brunt, spans the amateur/professional divide having made her international bow in 2004, a decade before central contracts were issued. But it is how the game has evolved as a spectacle that she sees as the biggest legacy of this era. Shrubsole, her new-ball partner, agrees: “With teams going professional and semi-pro we are seeing the standard of cricket go through the roof. The World Cup last year was a real marker of that.”

Casting back to 2015, that was the inaugural season played before the Women’s Big Bash League began in Australia and the Kia Super League in England followed suit in 2016 — the first semi-professional T20 leagues.

According to women’s cricket Twitter statistician @hypocaust, scores are inflating in an unprecedented rate with the average target set in a T20 international leaping from 115 in 2015 to 142 so far in 2018. In ODIs, the advance is similar, from 190 to 250. In turn, sixes are also raining at a rate nearly double of that three years ago.

As well as the modern game potentially extending Brunt’s own career – with her propensity for clearing the rope resulting in her climbing the England batting order as a dual-threat – the veteran identified an opportunity with her newly increased profile to tell a difficult story of her own youth last month. Plagued by bullying and self-image issues as a teen, Brunt opened up commendably in a documentary reproduced by Sky.

“The World Cup gave us all the start of what would be household names,” she says of the timing. “For me it is the appropriate moment to tell the story to help other people. I actually did get quite teary when I watched it back, to be honest. I did pour myself into it. But I am the oldest player in the team and have been through a lot so it seemed quite fitting to tell.”

Tammy Beaumont has been able to buy her first home

Tammy Beaumont has been able to buy her first home. Photograph: John Sibley/Action Images via Reuters

On the cheerier side, Beaumont – who backed up her World Cup with a further three international centuries this summer – never gets sick of posing for photographs with her new fans, noticeably the player youngsters most want a piece of after games. “From last year so many young fans coming to watch and they know your name,” she says. “Certainly this year we have had a lot of girls coming up saying: ‘Oh, it is Tammy Beaumont’ or ‘That’s Nat Sciver’ or ‘That’s Danni Wyatt’. It has taken off.”

It is as ambassadors that England’s women remain at complete ease, long conditioned to selling their sport as much as playing. “Our voice is a powerful tool that can grow the game,” notes Shrubsole. “We are really trying to get as many women and girls playing as we possibly can and we have a crucial role to play.”

With, at last count by the ECB, 543 clubs now running a women’s section – a 30% increase from 2016 – much of this work is already yielding a dividend. At this rate, before long, many English summers will be owned by the girls.


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