With a World Cup on home soil alongside the second instalment of the Kia Super League, 2017 could be a huge year for women’s cricket in this country.
Between June and September, the world’s greatest players will be appearing across the country and on our TV screens and it is hoped this will motivate a new generation of young girls to take up the game.
But where can they all go to learn their trade?
While many schemes will take place across the length and breadth of the country, there is one in particular that stands out the perfect choice for players of all abilities – Cricket for Girls.
Launched in January, this brand new foundation is the brainchild of former England international and Kent CCC player-coach Lydia Greenway as she aims to instill in others a love of the game that brought her so much success.
In an international career spanning 14 years, Greenway scored in excess of 4000 international runs across all formats and is currently the nation’s third highest T20I all-time run scorer, while also winning both the 50-over and 20-over World Cups in 2009.
Not only that, she was also seen by many to be the finest fielder the women’s game has ever been fortunate enough to witness.
Having retired from England duty in June 2016, Greenway is hoping Cricket for Girls will be the perfect place where she can pass on her vast experience and knowledge to youngsters across the country.
The four-time Ashes winner said: “To be honest I didn’t really know exactly what I wanted to go into when I retired.
“I coached while I was playing and did a lot for Chance to Shine and still do a lot for them now.
“What I really think was important to me was that, whatever I did, I enjoyed it and that happens quite naturally when I’m coaching.
“And obviously because of the way the women’s game is growing at the moment it’s just really important that the players are getting as much opportunity as possible.”
While many of the scheme’s sessions this year will take place in Greenway’s home county of Kent, Cricket for Girls will also appear in Leicestershire and Teddington this summer and plans are underway to expand even further next year.
There are a number of ways that young players of all abilities can get involved with Cricket for Girls, with the foundation offering visits from top coaches, including Greenway herself, to schools and clubs nationwide, while academies in Tonbridge and Beckenham have already begun training.
Furthermore, there will also be a number of masterclasses run by some of the stars of the current and past stars of the international team, including Surrey Stars players Nat Sciver, Beth Morgan and Laura Marsh.
Marsh has also been involved in some of the early academy sessions and believes that having unprecedented access to some of the biggest names in the game will inspire many of the girls who want to make it to the very top.
The all-rounder said: “The sessions have gone really well, I think Lydia’s very pleased with how they have gone.
“Obviously it’s a new experience and something quite new for her but I think that she’s really enjoying it and the girls are as well.
“Certainly in the session that I was at they were having a great time and they are very fortunate to have someone like Lydia who is a great role model to learn from.
“I think it’s brilliant for the academy and for the girls to have so many international players involved.
“When I was growing up there weren’t that many female role models for me to aspire to be like.
“Hopefully as England players we can inspire lots of young girls on the academy and show them that there is a viable career in cricket.”
It’s not just top international players who will be working with Cricket for Girls though — the scheme has also recruited some top coaches as well to help teach the girls that want to go on and play professionally just what is required of them.
This includes James Kirtley, the former Sussex and England seamer who is now the England Women’s bowling coach, and Helen Shipman, a UKSCA-accredited strength and conditioning coach who will work with the academy.
For Greenway, being exposed to such a wealth of experience and knowledge will be an invaluable experience for the girls who pass through the scheme and she is hoping it will encourage as many of them as possible to take up the game on a permanent basis.
The 31-year-old explained: “I think it is so important, firstly to have those female role models who have played international cricket come in as that will be amazing for the girls to see.
“And then from someone like James Kirtley the girls get a bit on insight into what they need to do if they are aspiring to go on and play to the next level and hopefully they know what they need to do because they’ve had that experience.
“It’s just about providing as much opportunity as possible and trying to inspire female cricketers.”
To find out more about Cricket for Girls, visit their website.
Feautured image courtesy of Phil McIver, with thanks.