England skipper Heather Knight has branded her side’s rise to the top of the world rankings as “an even bigger incentive” to do well in this winter’s Ashes series in Australia.
Knight’s side snatched the top spot from the Aussies following their World Cup triumph against India in July, wining a thrilling final in front of a capacity crowd at Lord’s by nine runs.
It meant Australia lost their place at the summit of the women’s game for the first time since October 2015.
But speaking at the launch of a new salad she has helped to create with London-based healthy eating outlet Squirrel, the 26 year-old (pictured above, centre) said that while success down under would consolidate England’s status, the team is chasing far more.
“To get to world No.1 is great but we want to keep pushing forward and keep pushing the women’s game in the right direction as well. It’s moving at such a pace, and to stay at the top we’re going to have to keep working really hard.
“The Ashes is the biggest rivalry in cricket and what you want to be involved in as a player.”
England have experienced a remarkable 18 months since Charlotte Edwards was acrimoniously removed as captain, with the leadership handed to Knight.
But coach Mark Robinson has guided the team through some troubled waters.
‘We’ve got a good core of girls in their mid-20s, which is quite nice looking to the future’
– Heather Knight
“When Robbo [Robinson] came in he told us a quote that sums him up perfectly: ‘My job as a coach is to challenge the comfortable and comfort the challenged’.
“He’s not afraid to give us a rocket if he thinks we need it, but he’s also there to try to get the best out of us.”
The former Sussex man has done something no England coach has ever achieved by winning a 50-over global tournament, with his style receiving high praise from Knight.
“He’s very much a people person, it’s quite scary how perceptive he is sometimes, but he challenges us when we need it. That balance works very well.
“We’re a very together group with a culture of honesty, we want to be honest with players when things aren’t going well.”
England are fortunate to cross the globe with a settled squad, with 12 of the current line-up having tasted success in the previous thwarting of the Baggy Green in the 2013 series, a period which Knight fondly recalls as “one of my finest memories in an England shirt”.
“We’ve got a good core of girls in their mid-20s, which is quite nice looking to the future, but we’ve got a few senior heads. Katherine Brunt is the oldest [at 32], which she hates!”
But it was 18 year-old Sophie Ecclestone’s inclusion which came as something of a shock. The spinner only left school in the summer, but will challenge Danielle Hazell and Danni Wyatt to be the premier twirler in the squad.
“Sophie is a really great young girl, really enthusiastic but she often talks very fast and can be quite hard to understand! But she has spent a lot of time around the group and knows the girls very well, she is not shy, that’s for sure.”
“Sophie played in a lot of our warm-up games leading up to the World Cup and has deserved her selection thoroughly. I’m really excited to see what she can do.”
Heather Knight was speaking at the launch of the ‘Green Knight’ salad, part of the ‘Best In Field’ series of dishes from Squirrel. Images courtesy of KK Communications. You can follow Heather on Twitter @Heatherknight55