• Sunday, June 23, 2024

Sports

Women’s cricket gets a big boost

England pacer Bell believes Metro Bank fund will fuel the growth of girls’ game

Lauren Bell

By: Eastern Eye

ENGLAND bowler Lauren Bell had no women role models in cricket while growing up, so she gets a kick out of the young female fans she meets who tell her they plan to wear their hair in plaits like she does on game days.

 Building on the success of last year’s record-breaking Ashes series, Metro Bank and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have teamed up to launch a fund that Bell said will help grow the girls’ game. The Metro Bank Girls in Cricket Fund will focus on recruiting, educating and supporting people working in girls’ cricket, with a goal of trebling the number of girls’ teams at clubs by the end of 2026. 

 “When I was younger, I would get asked ‘Oh, who’s your role model? Who did you watch growing up playing cricket?’ I had no woman that I was like ‘I want to be like her when I’m older’,” Bell said in an interview with Reuters. 

 “It’s getting a lot better and us as an England team, our biggest thing is to inspire and entertain and be role models and the more girls that can see us and be like ‘I want to be like her,’ I guess the more people will get involved.” 

 Bell said she has seen huge growth in visibility for the women’s game since the 2022 World Cup where England finished runners-up and last year’s Women’s Ashes in England, which sold a record-94,000 tickets, nearly three times the 32,000 total attendance for the 2019 series. 

 “There’s moments that have stuck with me,” Bell said. “I was playing at the World Cup and would meet a girl that wanted plaits, or a mum would say ‘I’ve had to plait (my daughter’s) hair every day since you started plaiting your hair,’ stuff like that. You obviously don’t realise (the impact) and then you meet these girls, it’s nice. We’re having quite a big influence and obviously we’re only trying to grow that.” 

 While no financial figures were available, commitment for the new fund extends through 2028 with the first three years dedicated to coaches and volunteers based on recent research by Women in Sport that found one of the biggest barriers to girl’s participation is a lack of female coaches.  

“Obviously, a lot of club cricket coaches are male and I guess if you’re a girl just starting out, having a female coach, you would feel more comfortable,” Bell said.  

Bell – whose nickname is ‘The Shard’ because of her 6’1″ height – grew up playing both football and cricket largely with boys. She was the first girl to play for Bradfield College’s first 11 at age 14.  

She played football for Reading’s academy until she was 16 when her parents asked her to choose one sport or the other, and she chose cricket.  

“I was friends with all boys, so playing with boys really didn’t bother me,” Bell said from Birmingham, where the England women were training ahead of the T20 and ODI series against Pakistan.  

“But I see girls, and they probably don’t want to play because it’s with boys, and who would play if they could play with girls.” 

 Bell, who made her England debut in June 2022, suggests girls or their parents interested in cricket contact a nearby club. “Ask every girl in this (England) team and they’ve got a home club where they still go back to that’s like their extended family,” she said.  

“So find a girls’ team and maybe go with a friend if that makes it a bit less nerve-wracking. That’s obviously what this initiative is about is making more girls’ teams.” (Reuters) 

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