England fast bowler Katherine Brunt continues to pound an aggressive beat despite years at the top of the game. But Will Moulton finds that her tough exterior hides a soft centre
Katherine Brunt is a sight to behold when she has a cricket ball in her hand. The Barnsley-born speedster has long been regarded as one of the finest and most aggressive bowlers around, regularly reaching speeds of 70mph, frequently roaring with delight when she dismisses a batsmen and often not afraid to give them a few words if she hasn’t.
Her finest spell came against New Zealand in the T20 World Cup final at Lord’s in 2009. Having struggled against Australia in the previous game, Brunt hit back emphatically and was simply unplayable. No one could cope with her pace and bounce and she finished with the frankly remarkable figures of three for six, setting her side up for a six-wicket victory. That she was sporting a black eye a heavyweight boxer would be proud of helped add to the image.
But off the pitch her demeanour couldn’t be any different. The tough, feisty persona quickly disappears and is replaced by a polite, softly-spoken and friendly individual. But it’s not a case of Brunt adopting a character when she plays. It’s simply a fact that cricket brings out that side of her.
“When I step on the field I cross that line and that’s it, it’s like a war; it’s win at all costs,” the three-time England Women’s Cricketer of the Year said. “I’m very fair and competitive, but at the end of the day you’re going out there to win and, however that looks, that’s how you do it. I’m out there with those other ten girls and I’m going to do whatever it takes to take them to that victory. I’m proud of being like that, but it can also bring out the worst in me.
“My emotional control is the main thing I’ve had to work on through the years, channelling it towards being something great as opposed to it affecting the way I play. It’s been a challenge, but it is something that when put together in the right form works out quite well.”
Brunt’s drive and determination was evident in abundance during the recent World Cup final. This time, though, it was with the bat as her gutsy 34 ensured England posted a defendable total, before Anya Shrubsole stole the headlines with her match-winning bowling.
Many of the England girls were in tears of joy at the end of that game, Brunt included. She had endured a tough eight years during which she almost walked away from the game after a second operation on her back. This was the proof she needed that all the pain, worry and heartache was worth it.
It wasn’t the first time Brunt had shed a tear during the tournament either, having done so before the game against New Zealand when her dad presented her with her 100th ODI cap. While Brunt knows that any tournament victory is memorable, all these factors added up to make this one of those rare, unbeatable occasions.
“Having my dad make the presentation was a special moment; we do really special things at England and that was just one of them,” the 32-year-old recalled. “In the changing room afterwards they also showed me a video of all the girls doing really silly congratulatory messages, which was both hilarious and really emotional. You can’t take moments like that away.
“The last ball of the final was an emptying of my emotions – I immediately started sobbing on the pitch. I didn’t see that coming at all – normally you cry when you lose! It was just the relief of the last eight years of not quite being there and not knowing whether I would get to this point. I remember having conversations about retirement over the second surgery, so it was just a complete release and happiness that I had got to that point and crossed that line.”
There was to be no resting on their laurels, however, as the England players jumped straight back into work, this time training with their domestic teams for the second season of the Kia Women’s Super League.
Brunt is once again turning out for the Yorkshire Diamonds – who play the Western Storm tomorrow – alongside international team-mates Lauren Winfield and Jenny Gunn. She is impressed by the increased level of coverage the tournament has received this year. However, somewhat surprisingly, the ultra-competitive individual also admitted she doesn’t enjoy playing against her fellow England stars, many of whom are based in Loughborough and spend much of their time together.
“The increased TV and radio coverage has been fantastic. It’s what we need to move things forward,” England’s second highest ODI wicket-taker said. “We have the momentum off the back of the World Cup success and that’s worked out really nicely, moving straight into the KSL. Obviously we are really happy that we can bring that audience along and hopefully get more kids tuned in. It’s important we showcase our skills and promote the Kia Super League as much as we can.
“But I really do enjoy playing with my mates and I hate playing against them. I can be very competitive and it can sometimes be a bit of a sour place to be when the fire starts burning. The majority of us live in Loughborough and we all drive about at the same time when we’re going to training. It looks a bit like an entourage as we all have the same cars. Obviously that’s a great tactical idea by Kia!
“I’ve always said that the England team is my cricket family and this particular group is really tight and we have spent a lot of time together. We haven’t got to the point where we hate each other yet!”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Will Moulton is a ‘Gold Standard’ NCTJ-qualified sports journalist and a First Class graduate from Durham University who aspires to one day commentate on international cricket and an Olympic Games. He is hugely passionate about a number of sports – including cricket, hockey, football and rugby – and also has two national cheerleading titles to his name. Will’s latest articles