January 2016 - Women's Cricket - Rosie Pembroke and This Girl Can

Sport England’s #ThisGirlCan national campaign was introduced to celebrate active women and inspire others to take up sport and physical activity in whatever form. Cricket adopted #ThisGirlCan wholeheartedly and benefitted from the revised Ashes contest between England Women and Australia Women, which saw a format introduced that included T20, one day and Test matches in a single series.

In Wiltshire, women and girls cricket has been a focus area of work for some time now and there are many clubs in the county that are delivering some form of provision. A formal competition structure has been implemented based around the national Super 4’s initiative which aims to bridge the gap between domestic and international cricket. In Wiltshire this constitutes the district areas; North, South, East and West, but is modified roughly according to the interest level in each area and the availability of players.

Such is a testament to the growth of women and girls cricket that in 2016 the Super 4s fixture list has been reduced because more and more clubs are now running their own fixtures, hence the need for Wiltshire Cricket to facilitate competitive action has been reduced.

Representative cricket is available at four age groups from U11 through to U17 and then in addition to Super 4’s, Wiltshire has a full county team playing a mixture of T20 and one day fixtures. At the heart of the plan to grow women’s cricket in the county there is a strong programme of schools coaching aimed at both primary and secondary schools and delivered through the Chance to Shine platform. Young players are introduced to the game through schools, signposted to clubs and then encouraged to maintain their involvement through junior age group cricket and group coaching.

A particular success with regards to schools cricket has been Wiltshire Cricket’s annual autumn girls competition programme. This programme involves Chance to Shine funding being used to visit primary schools to deliver girls only coaching for a three week period during September and October. All schools in receipt of this coaching are then entered in to local competitions at the end of October. This initiative not only provides great access to the game for girls who may not have played Cricket before but it is also a good means of Wiltshire Cricket identifying talent to be invited to trials for selection to the winter county under 11 programmes, which are run on a North/South basis.

As with the game at a national level, profile and awareness is a key requirement to help attract new players into the game. However role models are also an important element and the success of the national team and visibility of the game on television are key ingredients in terms of inspiring young players locally. One such young player is Rosie Pembroke, this year named Wiltshire Cricketer of the Year, an accolade which goes to a female cricketer for the first time ever.

Rosie’s achievements in 2015 are worth revisiting. She represented the county at Under 13, 15 and 17 level in the single year, making over 400 runs and taking more than 30 wickets, including best efforts of 100* and 5-6 in separate games. Describing herself as more of an accumulator with the bat, rather than a big hitter, and a medium fast swing bowler, her performances were consistent and effective in playing key roles in team victories during the year.

A modest individual, who hopes to be considered as an all-rounder now that her batting prowess has come on over the last couple of years, Rosie models herself on two of the best young players in the women’s game internationally; Ellyse Perry and Meg Lanning of Australia, and has been playing cricket for as long as she can remember. Brought up on backyard cricket in South Africa, the family then moved to the UK and Rosie and her two brothers joined Potterne CC where they were supported by Graham Gaiger, Bill Thurlow and Steve Patten-Hall, who unfortunately passed away last year.

Playing alongside boys in the Wiltshire Youth League at under 11 level really helped her progression and reflects similar stories at the elite end of the game in English premier league cricket as well as most recently when Sarah Taylor, England’s wicket-keeper batsman, played grade cricket in Australia. Rosie is also quick to point out support provided by Lisa Keightley, Helen Dolman, Alan Crouch, Jon Haines and Ali Goddard at Wiltshire Cricket.

Shocked, and proud, to receive the Cricketer of the Year award in 2015, Rosie has now set her sights on helping the county Under 15 team to progress and whilst her ultimate objective is to make the England Under 15 squad, continuing to make progress at the same rate she has over the last couple of years is a more technical aim. Developing her tactical and psychological understanding of the game is also an element that Rosie appears to have a good understanding of, including developing ways of not over-thinking at the crease and keeping things simple, which shows very good self-awareness. She talks of the importance of finding ways of taking pressure off herself at the crease and of not getting too down about not making runs every time you walk to the crease.

The tactical and psychological aspects of the game will be a particular focus of Rosie’s Emerging Players Programme (EPP) sessions that she will be receiving during the 2015-2016 winter, under the stewardship of Head of Performance, Alan Crouch. Rosie is one of two girls on this winter’s EPP programme, a programme that offers one to one coaching with the aim of supporting players to develop on to First Class Academies or in the girl’s case on to England Development programme, or who knows; the new ECB Women’s Super Cricket League.

She’s also keen to highlight the successes of team-mates this year, naming Katherine Mills, Melissa Story and Lily Day in particular and just reflects the impression of a very grounded person at a young age and, in her own words, someone who simply ‘loves cricket’!

Sport can be so powerful in terms of helping young people to achieve, to gain confidence, travel, socialise and meet people who could become friends for life. So whilst the #ThisGirlCan campaign continues to raise profile and provide inspiration for women and girls across the country in all sorts of sports, we have our very own rising star here in Wiltshire to be proud of.

So what advice would she give aspiring cricketers in Wiltshire, or indeed girls who are just unsure about taking that first step into the game? ‘Don’t be afraid of playing alongside the boys,’ says Rosie, ‘it's the easiest and the best way to start in the game and most clubs have lots of girls playing at U9 and U11 level. You also develop so much faster playing with the boys than if you are just playing with the girls. After a while they stop noticing you are a girl anyway!’

After the year that Rosie has had, we’re fairly certain that people will start taking note!

Wiltshire Cricket would like to thank everyone who contributes to the provision of women and girls cricket in Wiltshire and wishes everyone another successful season in 2016.