Kate Cross is in a “good place” with her cricket at the moment. Never one to focus on stats, or on trophies, she simply considers herself fortunate to be able to play the game and represent her country.
The 29-year-old is an England international who has played across all formats. She has competed in the Big Bash, played in the Ashes and became the first woman to play in the Central Lancashire League back in 2015.
But, with the impacts of coronavirus halting the cricket season last year, and the challenging restrictions and protocols that emerged upon its return, there was a period of struggle for the fast bowler.
In an exclusive interview with GiveMeSport Women, the England star bravely opens up on this tough time and looks ahead to a blockbuster summer with Test cricket and The Hundred to come.
Back in April, Cross courageously revealed that there were times while she was in the England bubble in Derbyshire last year that she couldn’t stop crying. It was the monotony of the environment that impacted her the most –– especially given her lack of playing time in the T20 internationals against the West Indies.
“We were on-site in Derby and we couldn’t leave and your life literally revolved around cricket,” she stresses. “You got up, went for breakfast and then it was cricket training or there was a game. So I really struggled to cope with that.”
Of course, there were forms of entertainment to try and keep the players occupied. The facilities were complete with a games room, pool table and TV, but Cross admits that at times it felt like you were being forced to enjoy yourself.
“I really forced myself to make sure that I was playing darts or whatever in the evening and making sure I was being social. And, I think there's just only so much of that that I could put on, so I think that's why I then spiralled a little bit in that environment.”
One way Cross kept herself occupied during such challenging times and especially in the early stages of the pandemic, was her very own cricket podcast. Together with fellow England teammate Alex Hartley, the pair started “No Balls”, which has gained a huge following. Both players were known for “giving each other banter”, but Cross says they never thought it would become this big.
“So we did a bit of a trial run, and sent it to our parents, brothers and sisters,” the North-West Thunder star says.
“And, they kind of gave us some feedback and said you know what, it's not bad. Obviously, it was very rough back then and we literally sat in our living room with a phone between us because we had no recording equipment and we didn't know how to put it on the internet.”
Indeed, Cross concedes that there was a struggle for continuity at first, but that lockdown helped them commit to recording more, which improved consistency.
“When lockdown happened we said right let's give this a proper go –– let's just do a weekly episode and see what happens. And, it was probably the best thing that could have happened to us because that allowed us to actually gain some followers and get people interested in what was going on.
“So, COVID was good for the podcast. It wasn't good for anything else but it was good in the podcast.”
While the pair plan on carrying on with “No Balls”, there is now a season of cricket to focus on. Cross has been included in a 17-person England Test squad for a match against India, which starts on Wednesday 16th June. The former Ashes winner is used to playing in this format and is “looking forward to getting going”, but reveals it feels like a “pretty new” way of starting the international summer.
The inaugural season of The Hundred is also set to get underway next month. The Manchester-born star has frequently expressed her excitement for the competition and will have the enviable opportunity to play in the tournament’s opening game for the Manchester Originals against the Oval Invincibles.
Above all, though, Cross is just pleased the ECB have kept true to their promise of promoting women’s cricket.
“I've always spoken about equal opportunity within the women's game and the men's game and that's all we ask for as players, is that we get equal opportunity,” she says.
“And, then when I found out that we've got the first game I just thought that's the ECB showing actions speak louder than words.
“So it's a great opportunity for us as players to be able to show everyone what we do, day in, day out and how much hard work we put into it.”
The 29-year-old hopes this could be a turning point for women’s cricket, where young girls will tune in to the game for the first time and find idols who will inspire them moving forwards.
“Young girls could look at The Hundred and see that [women] get to play on television and look at Heather Knight in exactly the same way as Joe Root.”
This is the ultimate goal for Cross. She aims to inspire the younger generation and, while equal pay may be a long way off, she is adamant that no person should have fewer opportunities simply because of their gender.
“I know that's a really cliche answer but I think for me, the thing that I'll be hopefully most proud of when I retire is hopefully trying to pave a way for younger girls to come through and have a really clear way of playing cricket.
“I feel like that's what the podcast also allows me to do. It’s another way of spreading the word and letting people know that girls do play cricket and it's not too bad.”
Cross was speaking at the launch of cinch’s partnership with England Cricket.
Cinch is the Principal Partner of England cricket. For more information on how cinch is helping to drive women’s cricket forward, visit cinch.co.uk
You can check out a video of the launch here