World Cup is giving girls new role models

Lydia Greenway, the left-handed England bat, and one of the world’s finest outfielders, reports from Dharamshala, northern India, on the team’s progress in the ICC Women’s World T20 tournament. It’s not all about cricket, though, as she relates stories about ‘the gurgles’, baboons on the balcony and meeting the Dalai Lama

There are times when you realise how lucky you are to be playing cricket for England in one of the most beautiful settings in the world. It’s amazing here. We’re really high up with lovely views. All around us you can see snow-capped mountains. This is where we’ve been based for most of our group games in the tournament which is starting to reach the sharp end.

On days off, when we’re not watching the England men play on TV, we’ve been out sightseeing. A quick spin round a market, a little trip to a waterfall. The terrain is like another world. As I suppose it would seem for someone brought up in north Kent.

And Wednesday morning was pretty cool. We went to see the Dalai Lama. That was incredible. He spoke really good English and was very down to earth. We were trying to do a bit of research beforehand about how to greet him. But in the end he had engagements so we had to keep it short and sharp. Obviously we had pictures with him as souvenirs.

As for the women’s cricket here in India – it’s been brilliant. We played in front of a crowd of up to 8,000 for our match against the Indian women’s team and it seems as though everyone was there just to see good cricket played. They were cheering for both teams, not just the home side. There was a really good atmosphere.

That’s major progress. With regard to funding, the Indian women’s team are similar to us. Some of them on contracts now. There’s been a lot of improvement in that respect with the support they’re getting; maybe it will have a knock-on effect to the way women are treated in society. With the national team having a higher profile, and a number of their games now televised, younger girls will have role models to aspire to. They won’t have to necessarily follow the route expected of them in the past. It’s great for girls to aspire to something different and realise what other opportunities there are.

Their superstar is probably Mithali Raj, their 33-year-old captain who’s been around for a number of years. The other one is the tall fast bowler Jhulan Goswami. They would be the two players that people would probably recognise, and both have done a great deal for their country. But other women’s team are emerging all over the world, like Hong Kong and China. Lots of countries are deciding to invest in their women’s teams which can only be good for the game.

But right now we’re concentrating all our thoughts and efforts on the West Indies and Pakistan, the teams we play in the group stage. Then, if we win through, the semi-finals are in either Delhi or Mumbai, and they will be double-headers with the men.

We may be standing at two wins out of two so far, but the West Indies will be a very tough match. They’ve got a lot of big-game players in their team. Pakistan are similar to Sri Lanka in that they’ve improved a huge amount. We won’t under-estimate them. They are quite capable of giving apparently bigger teams a run for their money.

So depending how it goes, we could be here for a month in total. It’s a long time but then cricket is more a way of life than just a sport. As a team, we’re quite lucky. We all get on pretty well. And we’ve got a dinner club going right now which is fun. It does what it says. We just go out to dinner quite a lot.

I must admit in our early years of touring India we had to be careful with the food because most people got ill. We weren’t as fortunate in those days as we are now in the quality of the places where we stayed. Touch wood, this time most of the girls have been fine. We’ve had a few gurgles, but that’s more travel sickness than anything else.

But I remember on my first tour here, 10 years ago, we turned up in the evening and were just lobbed on to this bus travelling to the middle of nowhere. We woke up in the morning and we had baboons on our balcony and cockroaches in our beds. We’ve come a long way since then.

I go back that far because I made my England debut aged 17 in 2003. I’m the big “three-oh” now and still love the sport as much as ever. It’s one of the most levelling sports around. You can be a hero one day, and not do well at all the next. That keeps people level-headed.

Next year, when England hosts the Women’s World Cup, I’ll only be 31. I’ll still be a spring chicken. There’ll be a lot of competition for places. But obviously if I’m still good enough I’d love to be there. It’s the ultimate. To play in a World Cup in front of sell-out home crowds. It’s going to be an amazing sign of how far we’ve come as a sport.


Lydia Greenway, is an England and Kent cricketer. Lydia’s latest articles

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