(Photo: Getty Images)
By Adam Collins
The never-ending awards season continued for England’s women cricketers taking out another gong, named the Sporting Role Model team category in the Women’s Sport Trust ‘Be A Game Changer’ ceremony last night in East London.
Heather Knight’s side, who claimed the one-day World Cup in spectacular fashion at a packed-out Lord’s last July, add the new prize to an impressive list that includes the BBC Sports Personality Team of the Year, the BO Sport Action Woman Team of the Year and the Sports Journalist’s Association British Sport Awards Team of the Year.
The aim of the Trust awards is to shine a light on organisations and individuals driving the future and growing participation in women’s sport. By enticing 1.1 million people to tune in for their global decider against India – more eyeballs than for any other match last summer – the case that England’s women “accelerated change” in the way that the game is viewed, according to Tammy Parlour, chief executive and co-founder of the Trust, is irrefutable.
“Their incredible victory was a watershed moment not just for cricket but for sport as a whole,” she said.
“Since that moment, women’s cricket has continued to rise. From Heather Knight, Anya Shrubsole and Nat Sciver being named amongst Wisden’s five Cricketers of the Year; to Anya Shrubsole featuring as Wisden Cricketers’ Almanac first female cover; to Middlesex Women playing on the main pitch at Lord’s for the first time in an exhibition match against MAC. It’s been a truly game-changing year for cricket.”
The EB point to the immediate success of women’s softball cricket festivals as further evidence of the World Cup surge translating to the recreational level. Last summer, 9,500 new female players registered for structured cricket for the first time in the format. This year, the hope inside headquarters is that number could surge to double or even triple that.
With the players currently in training ahead of their summer internationals, Clare Connor, director of women’s cricket for the EB (also integral to the success of the World Cup tournament as a whole) collected the prize on the team’s behalf.
“The players understand very clearly they have still have a duty to grow the game,” she said. “They take this very seriously, so much so that the morning after their World Cup win they were back at Lord’s running an All-Stars coaching session for girls.”
“Everyone talks about a game-changing moment, and this does feel like that. We knew it was going to be a huge opportunity, and of course it’s vitally important we make sure this success inspires and connects with talented girls and boys.”
Knight, captain of the triumphant team, said that recognition from the Women’s Sport Trust added to a “special 12 months” for the side she inherited just a year before the World Cup.
“Some of the most memorable moments from the World Cup came from seeing young girls in the crowd imitating Anya’s bowling or Nat batting,” she continued. “Hopefully we helped to inspire them to pick up a bat and start playing.”
Shrublike, whose devastating spell it was of 5 for 19 to rip the trophy from India’s hands on the biggest stage, added that it was “so humbling” to be continually listed alongside some of the most popular sporting teams in the land.
“We’re in an exciting period of growth at the minute, across women’s sport,” she said. “Let’s do everything in our power to sustain that.”
England begin their summer campaign against South Africa in three one-day internationals on June 9. Later in the month, New Zealand joins for a T20 tri-series before the Kiwis stay on for three further Odis. Then, come November, Knight has the chance to add the 20-over to the 50-over cup in the World T20 in the West Indies.