Having made her England debut at just 16, Bath born and bred cricketer Anya Shrubsole – now 23 – has since established herself as one of the main strike bowlers in the England Women's team. XtraTime's Andrew Kerslake caught up with the Somerset seamer at the end of the Test series against Australia, and after a long summer of cricket for country, county and club.
How difficult for you was it losing the Ashes to Australia over the summer, following back-to-back series wins in 2013 and 2014?
Internationally it has not gone as we would have liked, not regaining the Ashes, but from a county and club perspective Somerset have been promoted and Bath have won their league, so there are some positives to take from this season. But against Australia we did not do as well as we would have hoped. In the Test match [a 161-run defeat at Canterbury] we massively underperformed and it was really disappointing to lose that game. Some people’s performances were below par and below what we would have expected so I think we only have ourselves to blame.
But despite losing, I greatly enjoy playing Test matches, because we don’t get to play them very often, usually about one a year. I bowled a lot of overs, 43 I think, so they are tough on the body but you do get a chance to work batters out and work the game out. There is a lot to be said for that tactical side to cricket.
You get your head tucked down when you bowl. Is that a natural action?
Everybody’s action is natural to themselves I think if I tried to bowl like Catherine Brunt bowls that would probably take more toll on me than my action does. I have bowled like that for a long time. I have worked on it over the years and played around with it a bit but you look at James Anderson. He gets his head tucked down and he’s not a bad bowler.
The Ashes series got a lot of attention. Do you think women’s sport in general has come more to prominence in recent years?
Women’s sport has come a long way since the London Olympics. It has helped because our teams have been successful, first at the Olympics, then in rugby and more recently in the football World Cup. Most of the time it’s a slightly different game to men’s sport but in my opinion it’s no less skilful and women are no less good at their sport. After all in the Olympics we didn’t celebrate medals being won for women, we were celebrating medals for Team GB. It didn’t matter whether they were male or female.
As you said, this year was not all bad, you did achieve success with Somerset.
In the league we won every game we played, winning six and the other two being washed out. Success has been three years coming for us. In past years, we had a couple of near misses or play-off games being rained out, so this year is testament to those three years of hard work. Sophie Luff, in particular, has had a brilliant season. She has knocked up a couple of hundreds and is in the England academy.
Only one in 500 women play cricket at a team level, so how did you get into the game?
My dad played minor counties cricket for Wiltshire. I also had a coach, Tom Baker, come into my primary school. My dad was at Bath CC so I was always around cricket, playing initially in boys' teams and it just went from there. At senior school it was a bit odd but not at primary school. Then I made my debut for England while I was still at senior school and that made a difference.
How tough was it to make your England debut at such a young age?
My first international match was at Shenley when I was just 16. It was a one-day international against South Africa. However, the real shock came before that when I was told I was in the squad for that summer. I remember driving away with my mum and thought 'I can’t believe it'.
When the first match came my parents and my grandparents were there. I was so nervous and I was bowling the first over as well. You stand at the end of your mark and think I can’t even remember how to bowl, what am I doing? But after a couple of balls you just settle in and remember it’s just another game of cricket. After all, I had played it for eight years by then.
I was just 17 when I went on my first tour. I had never been away from home for more than a couple of nights. I was then away for seven weeks on the other side of the world. That felt quite strange.
Bearing in mind you started so young you must have years of playing at the top level ahead of you?
I reckon I still have seven years left in me as people play for longer with professional contracts. There also isn’t the pressure to get a job like there used to be. The contracts also mean we have more time together as we train twice a week up at Loughborough.
What is the highlight of your career so far?
Undoubtedly in 2014, playing against Australia in a Test match at the WACCA. I took 7-99 in the match and was the best game of cricket I have ever played in. I would be amazed for me if it’s topped. To play at the WACCA as a fast bowler, I thought was heaven. However, the second day when we were in the field it was around 45 to 50 degrees and I don’t think I have ever been so hot in all my life. A couple of us fast bowlers were losing a 1.5-2kg per session.
Finally, your nickname is 'Hoof'. Why?
Team-mates seem to make out I kick my heels up when I run, that plus a ponytail. I don't see it myself, but it seems to have stuck.