April 2017 - Katherine Mills

2017 is a big year for women’s cricket. The Women’s Super League launched last summer and will hope to grow on a hugely promising first year and the Women’s Cricket World Cup comes to England, starting in June. In 2017, the ECB are also funding county boards to deliver a soft ball cricket offer for women, which intends to use the profile of the Kia Super League and women’s World Cup, as well as campaigns such as This Girl Can, to inspire a completely new audience to give cricket a try in a very social and introductory form.

The soft ball offer is to be delivered by Wiltshire’s new Growth Development Officer, Sam Dent, whose role it will be to do exactly that; grow new areas of the game! The ECB’s commitment to this offer means they are focusing not only on pathways for the talented women and girls already in the game, but that they also want to make the game appealing to anybody so that hopefully the volume of female cricketers involved at all levels continues to rise

The timing of all of this could not be better for women’s cricket in this country. The game is growing, more clubs are providing women’s cricket, more matches are being played and there is greater profile and knowledge of women’s cricket and cricketer’s. Additionally the ECB awarded two year central contracts to 18 England players in December 2016 for the first time, a big indication of the commitment towards women’s cricket in this country.

All of this must be music to the ears of young, aspiring female cricketers. Of which there are plenty in Wiltshire. ClubLife featured the first ever Wiltshire Cricket, female, Player of the Year, a year ago when Rosie Pembroke was awarded this in 2015.

The 2016 awards event saw another talented young female cricketer scoop the top award. Back in 2012, at the age of 12 years and 164 days, Katherine Mills became the youngest player to represent Wiltshire at senior 1st XI level when she played against Oxfordshire in the Women’s County Championship. By the age of 16, she has already played in 22 men’s WEPL/Wiltshire League matches, 12 of which being at 2nd XI level. Alongside Rosie Pembroke, she became one of the first female cricketers to be selected for Wiltshire’s Emerging Player Programme.

Ali Goddard, Wiltshire Cricket’s Head of Junior Cricket, describes her as, ‘a true all-rounder in all senses of the game. Her apparent patience at the crease means that she looks comfortable in difficult situations, opening the batting especially at 1st XI level. Taking vital wickets with her swing bowling, as well as captaining the sides in which she plays with great levels of maturity.’

High praise indeed and it’s reflected in our discussions with her for this article. Thoughtful insight into her own game, and her strengths and weaknesses, really show an understanding of her personality and abilities that is rare to find in young players. Katherine talked about setting personal goals for each match, matching her own performance to the team’s requirements in order to gain an advantage over the opposition and trying to get the best out of her team-mates by utilising their strengths in favoured aspects of the game. Perhaps not innovative in any way but remarkably level headed and intuitive, to understand the role that you need to play as an individual and to recognise and nurture others abilities in order to benefit the team.

Katherine’s experience of cricket and her journey to where she is now is perhaps indicative of many young girls starting out in cricket and highlights how much talent may remain untapped at the moment. Trowbridge Cricket Club held a ‘bring a friend’ session and an 11 year old Katherine went along. She describes it as a session in which she realised she loved the game, although subsequently she had to work hard to pick up the skill components which were relatively new to her.

She highlights the variety and unpredictability that each match provides, and the continual opportunity to succeed in multiple areas of the game as key factors for enjoying cricket and shows the internal drive that she clearly possesses. As ever, success in sport is rarely fluke and her commitment to training is evident; ‘In all of my matches, I rely on the hard work that I did in winter training and try and give myself confidence in order to follow on from this hard work.’

Key strengths of hers stand out. Motivation, perseverance and a genuine love of the game all contribute to the player she is. Asked about her role models in the game she enthuses about Joe Root’s ability to perform in all three formats of the game and Charlotte Edwards’ leadership qualities. Former Wiltshire coach and Australian cricketer Lisa Keightley also gets mentioned as someone who ‘showed me that women’s cricket could be an up and coming sport in the future.’ The future is here and Katherine is definitely heading in the right direction.

Her willingness to ‘front up’ and put herself forward will stand her in good stead. Facing situations that others fear and enjoying the challenge of being under pressure is a trait that many of us would envy and one that Katherine embraces. It says much that her most memorable achievement to date was a battling backs-to-the-wall 85 against Worcestershire U17’s last year. Marshalling the tail and creeping closer to a victory target that was seemingly out of reach, feeding off the adrenaline of the situation and having confidence in her shot selection all stem from training, passion and a quiet, steely belief.

Which brings us back to 2017. A big year for women’s cricket. Another big year for the game in Wiltshire and yet more targets and challenges for Katherine Mills. Score a hundred and take a 5 wicket haul are listed as her personal goals but these are also offset by the level headedness; ‘most of all, I would just love to play to the best of my ability and enjoy the season.’

It’s hard not to admire someone whose maturity is way beyond their years and she certainly makes for an excellent local role model. Her advice for others just starting out is predictability honest, simple and heartfelt, ‘Just give it a go – you never know what opportunities may arise for you! Do whatever feels right.’

There has never been a better time to be a young female cricketer in this country. We’ll be keeping close tabs and wish Katherine all the best in the coming years.

Wiltshire Cricket would also like to wish all its representative teams the best of luck this summer and we hope to see more shining performances from many of our young players at county, regional and hopefully, national level.