Friendly rivalry is driving Wilson on

AN INTER-SQUAD mini-series seemed like the perfect way to get competitive juices flowing just two months out from a World Cup – but England batter Fran Wilson admits splitting the squad into two teams has created a battle more intense than even international cricket.

England are currently in Dubai on a three-week training camp as the days tick down towards a home World Cup, with three matches against Ireland set to come next week – and head coach Mark Robinson has spiced things up by splitting his 25-strong squad in two teams.

A three-match series was quickly set out, and with honours even in the first two contests, batsman Wilson admits that the friendly series has developed an intense edge.

“It is strange because in a way it is tougher than an international, because the players know you inside out and they know how to push your buttons and wind you up,” said Wilson.

“It is an interesting dynamic because we have all identified with our teams and it is getting competitive.

“It is really good preparation for international cricket, so it has been good fun and very popular. The teams are even, they have kept a few combinations, so we have Tammy Beaumont and Lauren Winfield who bat together.

“Other than that, it is set up to be the most even and competitive it can be ahead of the World Cup. Heather Knight is captain of the ‘B Team’ and Anya Shrubsole is the captain of the ‘A Team’.

“A few names were thrown about so we were ‘Anya’s Amigos’ and sometimes we call her ‘hoof’, so we called ourselves ‘Hoof’s Heroes’.

“But we stuck with ‘A Team’ because that is quite cool as well and insinuates we are better!”

With a home World Cup round the corner, and England desperate to avoid similar heartbreak to 2013 where they finished third, Robinson is keen to instil a real togetherness in the squad – where players work solely for the team instead of their own personal glory.

“It is a really refreshing environment to be in,” Wilson added. “It is something I have not experienced for a while. Cricket is a weird sport because it is an individual sport in a team game, but I really feel like at the moment we are looking to push each other on – and that is how we are going to challenge for a World Cup.”

Although a strong work ethic is vital to England’s hopes, they need individuals like Wilson to win them matches.

The 25-year-old enjoyed the best summer of her career last year – making her international return after five years in the international wilderness and starring in a 35-run win against Pakistan.

Previously, Wilson’s career was in danger of drifting without her potential being realised as she struggled to deal with set-backs at the crease.

But former Leicestershire head coach Tim Boon has unlocked her vast potential.

“Tim is very much a coach who makes you feel good,” explained Wilson. You get different types of coaches and they are all good at different times. But when I started working with Tim, I needed someone to believe in me and he did.

“He was as much a mentor as a coach and he knew what to say and made me feel really good when going out to the middle. He was the catalyst for me taking a step in the last year. Now I am looking forward. The World Cup comes really quickly when we get home from Abu Dhabi and then I am really excited about the Kia Super League as well.”

This piece originally featured in The Cricket Paper, April 21 2017

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