England captain Heather Knight has no hesitation putting country before club

By Sports Desk March 07, 2024

England captain Heather Knight had no hesitation in putting country before club but admitted the T20 franchise league boom will take women’s cricket into uncharted territory.

With England’s first match on a white-ball tour of New Zealand starting on March 19, two days after the Women’s Premier League final, Knight withdrew from a planned stint with Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Nat Sciver-Brunt, Sophie Ecclestone, Danni Wyatt and Alice Capsey had England’s blessing to go to the WPL and will therefore miss the first three of five T20s against the White Ferns this month.

It is hoped a repeat scenario can be avoided in the future with a specially-designated WPL window but Knight is aware the proliferation of domestic T20 tournaments opens avenues to women like never before.

“It was a pretty easy decision for me as England captain, it’s the right thing for me to be there for the whole of the England tour,” Knight told the PA news agency ahead of International Women’s Day.

“I’d always agreed to play the England games and wanted to, that was a given. I was trying to negotiate with the franchise around leaving a little bit early, but unfortunately that didn’t come to fruition.

“It was just unfortunately a little bit too tight with the flights and stuff and we couldn’t get the tour pushed back. As the game evolves, players have got more decisions to make as those options increase.

“It’s a sign of lots of opportunities in the women’s game but hopefully there’s a place for both franchise and international cricket to co-exist. It’s certainly interesting going forward.”

The quartet at the WPL – who will be available from the fourth T20 in a tour also including three ODIs – are earning lucrative sums at their franchises with Sciver-Brunt and Ecclestone on six-figure deals.

Knight sees the upshot for England as they can get a feel for Asian conditions before the autumn’s T20 World Cup in Bangladesh but she warned that workloads must also be given consideration going forward.

“I actually think some of our players playing in the WPL would be a huge benefit for England in the future and hopefully we’ll see that benefit at the T20 World Cup,” Knight said.

“It’s great for players and there are so many more opportunities but players are now having to make tricky choices around what’s best for them and how to manage the calendar.

“It’s becoming pretty much impossible to play in all the big franchise competitions and every game of cricket for your country.

“We’ll certainly see players trying to manage their workload and try and peak at the right time for big tournaments like the T20 World Cup.”

Knight was speaking after another revolutionary past 12 months for women’s cricket, with the 2023 Ashes generating record attendances and viewing figures, while England’s male and female cricketers are now paid equal match fees.

The England and Wales Cricket Board is now attempting to implement a radical shake-up of the domestic women’s game, which will see a three-tier structure and change in ownership model introduced from 2025.

“It seems like every year is groundbreaking and lots of changes,” Knight added. “It’s the fast-paced nature of things and trying to accelerate that move towards equity with the men’s game.

“The steps have been really good and it’s another exciting place to be. Last year was another remarkable year but let’s hope for another remarkable and groundbreaking year this year.”

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