A Cross-roads for the women’s game

Professional sport is often held up as one of the most glamorous occupations it’s possible to have.

The events of this summer, though, have shown otherwise.

And it’s not just those playing the game now that are bearing the brunt of the pandemic, charities such as the Professional Cricketers Association Trust are also feeling a considerable pinch.

The charity is forecast to lose £250,000 over the course of 2020 as a result of the cancellation of many of its fundraising events. That’s a huge sum and a shortfall that could have a dramatic impact on those within the cricket community who rely on the Trust’s support.

A drive for people to donate £10 by completing 10km runs, walks or cycles will go some way to addressing that fundraising vacuum, but the impact could still be huge.

Kate Cross, the Lancashire and England bowler, acknowledges just how hard this year has been for those involved in the sport.

And she believes that there will be a large number of cricketers, both male and female, who will be thinking very hard about their future by the time this summer is over.

“Regardless of this pandemic, you just don’t know what’s around the corner – one bad injury could end your career, or a coach comes in and doesn’t fancy you as a player,” she tells TheCC. “That’s certainly the case for us as female cricketers. I know there’s talk of these contracts at regional level and the Hundred means there is more money for girls to earn but there’s nowhere really for us to go.

“It’s not like if Jos Buttler lost his England contract and drops down to county level. We don’t have that. It is pretty fragile for us and it is quite scary sometimes.”

Is that fear which has driven the 28-year-old, off the pitch as well as on it.

“I always took university and school seriously,” she says. “Women’s cricket wasn’t professional when I was a youngster, so I always had to have that career option in case things didn’t turn out how I wanted them to.

“In the back of your mind you’re always conscious that it might happen, but you don’t want to think about it. I don’t want to try and do a degree or whatever it might be because you sort of feel that you might be tempting fate. You’ve also got the time constraints that studying puts on you, all of which can hinder what you’re doing on the cricket pitch.

“It’s quite a difficult balance.”

At the moment, it’s one that Cross has managed successfully in an international career stretching back to 2013. Stints in the WBBL with the Brisbane Heat have also opened up another avenue of employment for a player who suffered torn ligaments and a severe sprain in her right ankle during England’s final group game of the T20 World Cup against the West Indies back in March.

“I know there’s talk of these contracts at regional level and the Hundred means there is more money for girls to earn but there’s nowhere really for us to go. It’s not like if Jos Buttler lost his England contract and drops down to county level. We don’t have that. It is pretty fragile for us and it is quite scary sometimes.”

Having fought her way back from that setback, and having got some miles in the legs on her road bike back home in Lancashire, Cross is still hoping to play some cricket this summer, with a tri-series against India and South Africa still very much on the cards.

That would represent a welcome finish to a summer that has otherwise been a complete write-off. It’s also one that will have had a psychological impact on most in the professional game.

It would make an interesting piece of research for a graduate in the subject such as Cross.

“It probably would, the only problem is that I don’t want to go into sports psychology,” she says. “I’ve probably got a lot of doors open to do that, but I would be more interested in the forensic and criminal side of things.

“You have to know people to get your foot in the door. I did psychology at A-Level and then wanted to do a degree that I knew I would enjoy, which is why I picked it.

“The year I finished Uni I got offered a professional contract. They had come in that year and that winter I made my England debut. I kind of didn’t have to think about work experience, I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

“I would like my job to be exactly like the one in Silent Witness. I’m just not quite sure how to get there.

“I think I’ve seen how differently people react to it (sports psychology). Some people really buy into it, read all the books – Lauren Winfield springs to mind. Then you see the other end of the spectrum. Someone like Sophie Ecclestone, who is just so talented that if you start trying to get her to think it completely messes with how good she is.

“That sounds crazy, but she just has so much raw talent. It’s not something I’ve seen everyone buy into. I think if I went into a job like that I would be constantly battling against people’s personalities.”

For the moment her ambitions outside of cricket can keep. Fresh from running her 10km for the Professional Cricketers’ Trust – and then challenging three others to do likewise – Cross can still focus on the day job for now.

The debate over cricket’s future, meanwhile, will run and run.

To take part and donate visit the Professional Cricketers’ Trust’s Just Giving campaign – bit.ly/charity10for10