‘It’s going to be a great finale’

Former England cricketer Lydia Greenway sets up today’s Kia Women’s Super League finals day at Hove in an exclusive question-and-answer session for The Mixed Zone. An inquisitive Sue Mott asks the questions

So, a finals day with three teams. How does that work, then?

The team who win the first stage of the tournament, as the Southern Vipers have, go straight into the main final. The teams who come second or third, in this case Surrey Stars and Western Storm, compete in a semi-final play-off in the afternoon before the evening final. It makes the whole thing more exciting and gives spectators two games instead of one, so they get their money’s worth. It makes a great finale.

Is it fair on the team who win what could be a really tight match in the afternoon, having to face the lurking Vipers in the final? Wont they be physically and or emotionally worn out if the first game goes to the wire?

I was in the Vipers team who won straight through to the final last time and we had the advantage of being able to watch the other teams in the semi and see what the conditions were like. On the other hand, the Storm (last year’s finalists) could actually experience those conditions. But then they had a game in their legs, so they might have been a bit more tired. You could argue either way. But cricketers now are very robust. The modern-day cricketer can cope with two T20 games in the same day.

I remember my first tour to Australia when I was 17. We only had three support staff: coach, manager, physio. Now there are about 15. Nutrition, strength training, psychology, you name it. The players are professional now and take it very seriously. Back in the old days, though I knew not to go out at the end of the match and get drunk, that didn’t necessarily put me off.

Tell us about the superstars on display. You have played with or against many of them. What are they really like in real life?

There’s Anya Shrubsole probably one of the more household names after her match-winning six for 46 in the World Cup final. Fast bowler, playing for Western Storm. If you went round to her house I’d put money on her sitting watching Sky Sports News. She loves sport, her dad’s a PE teacher and it’s been very much ingrained in her from an early age.

I remember England captain Heather Knight when she first came into the team. There was something about her. Not in an arrogant way. She was just very comfortable in her own skin, decisive, a leader who backs herself. At the same time, she’s very level-headed, focused and quite funny. A dry sense of humour. It’s not always just cricket, cricket, cricket with her. She’s climbed Kilimanjaro for charity and she’s always keen to do challenges. We did the PCA [Professional Cricketers’ Association] bike ride together. Everyone had road bikes, clip-in shoes, lycra – and Heather rocked up with her bike in trainers. And she got up every single hill while a large number of the guys with all the kit struggled.

  Suzie Bates is currently the leading run-scorer in this year’s Kia Super League (239) and she’s become the first woman in the history of the competition to score a century. She just loves the game. Trains very hard. Good at giving time to younger girls. Very level-headed. At the same time, very driven. She used to play basketball for New Zealand so quite possibly she’s been mentioning the result of the Rugby World Cup final to her English teammates more than once.

I’ve watched Tammy Beaumont progress since she came up through the Kent under-11 age-group team. A very bubbly character. Voted player of the tournament at the ICC World Cup. Under England coach Mark Robinson she’s really staked her place on the international stage. Become more confident in own ability and herself as person.

Can you explain the secret of this mysterious bloke Alan who seems so attached to the team? Loads of time you hear someone ask: “Is Alan here?” The answer comes back: “Yeah – in the dressing room.” Really? Whats going on?

Oh Alan. Yeah, we all know about Alan. That’s the group name for the girls who live in the same house in Loughborough. Katherine Brunt, Beth Langston, Nat Sciver, Amy Jones and Fran Wilson all live in a house along a road called Alan something. Katherine “Nunny” owns the house so she’s their landlady. They’re just very funny. They have a household chore rota and I think Katherine gives out housemate of the week awards. The rest of England team have just developed this shorthand. If the girls from the house are late for training, someone might say: “Where’s Alan?” Then someone else might say: “Oh they’re on their way.” It’s brilliant. Saves time.

How much does the ultra-competitive, sport-crazy ex-England captain that is Charlotte Edwards – one of the greatest cricketers who ever lived – want to win the KSL for the second year running? And as one of her teammates for many years, whats she really like?

Lottie’s got that competitive streak ingrained in her. In all the time I’ve known her – which goes back to making my Kent debut when I was 14 – I’ve never met anyone with as much motivation, passion, determination to win. She’s always the first in to training and last to leave. Very good at getting the best out of others. Bit like Anya, she’ll watch everything to do with cricket. IPL. Big Bash. Men’s game. Women’s game. You name it. She just loves it. And she is very funny. She knows when to be serious, but she loves having fun as well.

For her I think the KSL is a great opportunity to play cricket at this level again after being asked to give up the England captaincy last year. It’s producing such a good standard of cricket with many of the best players in the world taking part. She’s able to challenge herself still in high-pressure situations. I was really disappointed for her when she left the England set-up. She would have loved to go out on her own terms, winning the World Cup. But, although I can’t speak for her, I think she’s achieved 10-times more in her career than many international players, and she will be pretty happy when she looks back. I don’t think the way her England career ended will tarnish her memories.

Your reputation as pundit on the line: who will win the first match between the Stars and the Storm and who will win the tournament?

I’m going to say – and this is based on Rachel Priest and Anya coming into form – Western Storm to beat Surrey Stars after a very close match. It’s sticking my neck out and it won’t make Laura Marsh – the dot-ball champion of the tournament so far – very happy. And Vipers to win final.

This is the second year of the Kia WSL, how have you seen it evolve?

Yeah, the crowds are up by a third already and following the World Cup I think the spectators have had the chance to get to know the players better. Last year was extremely good, but this year it’s gone up a notch again. Having a stand-alone sponsor in Kia is in itself is a huge step forward for game. It reminds players they are professional, with a responsibility and expectation to go out and perform day-in day-out. The tournament’s growing and creating life-long supporters.

Youre in the Test Match Special box for the final – an amazing place: iconic, beloved, hilarious, intensely knowledgeable. For a cricketer, is it ascending to sporting heaven?

Yes, it is, to be honest. Sometimes when I’m doing it I think: “Why didn’t I retire sooner because it’s an amazing environment.” Being a former player I appreciate commentating is quite a hard thing to do. You have to be precise. I try to avoid being too critical. I have to be honest about what I see. But I’m more Mary Berry than Paul Hollywood. It would be wrong to get on my high horse when players are out there doing their best.  Everyone is very tidy and well-behaved in the box, and I particularly appreciate the bright – and some might say lairy – shirts worn by my fellow commentator Dan Norcross.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sue Mott is an award-winning sport journalist who has worked on radio, TV and the written press. Sue’s latest articles

Lydia Greenway is a former England cricketer who played more than 200 games for her country over 13 years. During that period, she lifted two World Cups as well as winning The Ashes on four occasions. One of the more inventive players in the side – known for her incredible reverse sweep – she scored in excess of 4,000 international runs as well as pulling off numerous spectacular catches in the outfield. She can now be found commentating as part of the BBC’s Test Match Special team as well as running her own coaching academy. Lydia’s latest articles

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