The great thing about sport is that no matter how low you feel after a setback, there is always another game, another tournament, another opportunity around the corner to put things right. Katarina Johnson-Thompson will have been down in the dumps after three no-jumps in the heptathlon long jump at the World Athletics Championships in Beijing led to her disqualification from the competition. However, her road to redemption started when she qualified for Friday’s long jump final, in which she will be among the favourites for a medal.
Likewise England’s cricketers. They had suffered three successive defeats against Australia in the Ashes series. One more would give Australia overall victory. So how did England respond? By beating the Aussies by seven wickets in the first of the three Twenty20 internationals at Chelmsford on Wednesday night. They now trail Australia 8-4 with four points to play for.
Anya Shrubsole, England’s 23-year-old right-arm medium pace bowler, could sympathise with Johnson-Thompson’s plight out in China. As both try to overturn the odds and snatch victory from the snapping jaws of defeat and disappointment, Shrubsole offers her version of the inspirational motto ‘Try, try and try again’.
It was obviously devastating for Katarina to miss out by such a fine margin, but she’s really young and now she’s got the long jump where she can turn things around. That’s how we feel. We’re not dead and buried yet. There’s three games to go and if we win every one we retain the Ashes. It’s do or die. Sometimes you have to have the knock down to achieve your full potential.
First we have to accept what happened. We didn’t play well enough in every aspect of the game, batting, bowling and fielding. We’ve got contracts now. With that comes more recognition in the media, more scrutiny and criticism. People say: ‘You’re professional now. You’re full-time athletes.’ They expect more from us. But personally, I don’t think anyone will write anything about me or saying anything about my performance that I won’t be thinking myself. I place far higher expectations on myself than anyone else will.
As a team we have to accept the criticism. We’ve almost asked for it by wanting the women’s game to receive more recognition. With that comes criticism if we don’t perform. We just have to believe that we’ll come out the other side.
Our captain, Charlotte Edwards, has been around a long time. It’s the losses which are hitting her harder than any media scrutiny. She’s fiercely competitive. She wants us to show what we’re capable of. She is driving us on, not by reading any riot acts, but by leading from the front.
When we lose, as you saw with Katarina, some of the team are more emotional than others. It is devastating. So many years of practice, so many hours of training, and when you don’t win it’s incredibly hard to take. Personally, I’m not a massive crier on the whole, but I can absolutely see why Katarina got so upset at the Worlds immediately after her event.
But my advice would be, as it is to myself, you’ve got to remember why you play the game or do to the sport. The nature of high-level sport is that there are always occasions when you’re going to be down and almost out. But if you can drag up the memory of why you’re doing this, why you’re putting in all the hours of training, it will almost certainly be your love for the sport.
Remember that, and try and keep going forward. In Katarina’s case, whatever happens in Beijing, she’s got the opportunity of Rio in 2016. She’ll learn from what happened here. She won’t make the same mistake again. It’s sport. There’s always something else around the corner you can throw yourself into.
In our case, it’s the three NatWest International Twenty20s and the whole squad is excited by the challenge. We’re playing the first one at Chelmsford in front of a sell-out crowd at a ground where we’ve had a great deal of success. The way I look at it is this: it’s not impossible. It’s our opportunity to turn things round and put things right.
England play Australia in the women’s Ashes NatWest T20 series: Wednesday, August 26 (Chelmsford); Friday, August 28 (Hove) and Monday, August 21 (Cardiff)
Katarina Johnson-Thompson competes in the long jump at the World Athletics Championships in Beijing on Friday, August 28
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
This article was written by Anya Shrubsole, England’s 23-year-old right-arm medium pace bowler.
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