By Paddy von Behr
YORKSHIRE captain and among England’s first generation of professional female cricketers – Lauren Winfield has a lot to be excited about.
The 23-year-old wicketkeeper has taken the reins at Yorkshire from Salliann Briggs and already been in the runs, most recently with a stylish 78 in an agonising seven-run defeat to Surrey.
Her first summer in charge follows a busy winter with England, when Ashes action was preceded by an encouraging tour to the West Indies. Now in her final term with Loughborough University’s MCCU setup – led by mentor Briggs – Winfield is ready for life as a full-time cricketer.
“Growing up I never thought I would be graduating from Loughborough University to become a professional cricketer,” she said.
“Gone are the days when you paid for your own flights and kit – it’s just a huge movement for women’s cricket.
“I’ve worked closely with Salliann for four years at Loughborough and she was the first person who gave me a chance at Yorkshire as a junior.
“She’s somebody who has influenced my game dramatically. She’s very professional and the results are in the performances and being called up by England.”
Winfield’s winter could have been even better, were it not for missing out on England’s World t20 squad in Bangladesh. In fellow keeper Sarah Taylor, 24, Winfield has a substantial obstacle to overcome in order to claim the gloves full-time.
Taylor has played for England more than 150 times. However, Winfield believes a low-key pre-season – at the expense of a World Cup berth – has set her up nicely for a tilt at Test cricket later in the year.
“It has enabled me to really focus on aspects of my game and tweak a few things,” she added.
“There are always improvements to be made. Going from tour to tour, it’s sometimes hard to get back into the nets and tweak those things.
“It has given me the foundations to be able to get my head down and work hard. I was obviously disappointed but I am always searching for positives.”
With five ODIs and eight international T20s under her belt, the longer form is definitely next on Winfield’s to-do list and India’s visit in August is the soonest opportunity.
First comes the attempt to lead Yorkshire to go one better than last year’s second-place Championship finish, though two defeats from two has been something of a reality check for the new captain.
“It is a really exciting time, getting back into county cricket, obviously meeting up with the county and pushing for selection at the end of the summer – just putting my name forward with regular runs in county cricket,” added Winfield.
“It is not the dream start as captain for Yorkshire after two tough games but on a personal level it has been really pleasing. I feel I am really in good nick.
“It is a tough start but with the way women’s cricket is going, the standard is getting greater all the time so there is no easy game in the Championship at the moment.
“It has been a fantastic year obviously, getting called up. I had a pretty decent West Indies tour and retained my spot for the Ashes.
“Obviously we have got a bit of time now to get a bit of confidence.
“I feel really good at the moment and I am really enjoying my cricket. I am confident looking towards that series.
“Test cricket is the format that we all love. I played some two-day cricket against Australia last year and particularly as a batter, Test cricket is really for you – I just really enjoyed being out in the middle. That is obviously something I’m pushing for – that is what I have got my sights set on.”
Lauren Winfield is a Coaching Ambassador for Chance to Shine, the charitable cam- paign to keep cricket alive in schools. £15 will pay for a child to play cricket for a year. Donate at chancetoshine.org.