Commonwealth Games can be ‘game changer’ for women’s cricket, Heather Knight claims

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Heather Knight admits England’s Twenty20 focus has already turned to the Commonwealth Games, a tournament she hopes will push cricket towards being an Olympic sport again.

England start their three-match T20 programme with South Africa in Chelmsford on Thursday holding an 8-2 lead in the multi-format series.

Knight’s side swept the one-day matches 3-0 and South Africa can only level the series by producing their own T20 whitewash.

But women’s cricket will be involved at the Commonwealth Games for the first time at Birmingham, with the tournament due to get under way on July 29, and Knight believes it is a “game changer”.

Knight said: “It is a chance for us as a sport to reach some people we haven’t reached before. A huge stage to show what we can do.

“The platform to reach so many people is there, so our job is to be successful and show the skills that we have.

“It’s massive how much women’s cricket has changed and this could be another game changer in terms of reaching new people and a different level.”

A men’s cricket competition was held at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, with South Africa taking gold by beating Australia in the final.

The only Olympic cricket competition was at Paris 1900 when only two countries took part and Great Britain overcame hosts France to win gold.

Asked if cricket could become part of the Olympics, Knight said: “Potentially. Long after I’ve retired it might well happen.

“I think T20 would be the format, like it is in the Commonwealths, and the conversation would have to be had about schedules.

 (PA Wire)
(PA Wire)

“There’s a lot in the schedule and something would have to give to get it in there with other events going on.

“The balance needs to be found and (the women’s game) does allow for that.

“The men are slightly different. I look at the schedules they have and wonder, ‘How do they be a human being as well as a cricketer?’.

“But I see no reason why it can’t happen, especially for it to open up a different audience for cricket around the world.”

England have named the same 15-player squad for the South Africa series and the Commonwealth Games, with Knight saying the thought of playing at a multi-games event has given her “goosebumps”.

“It is something completely different,” said Knight, who wants to attend athletics’ 100 metres finals or cycling’s road races in Birmingham if her schedule allows.

“We went to kitting out the other day and it was a brand new experience.

“To see pictures of outstanding athletes on the wall who have competed for Team England got the goosebumps going.

“It made the girls realise how different it was going to be and excited for what’s to come.”

Teenagers Alice Capsey and Freya Kemp are among those in a youthful-looking T20 squad, with experienced opener Tammy Beaumont the notable omission.

Beaumont, a veteran of 99 T20 internationals, responded to her omission by hammering 119 from 107 balls in England’s third ODI victory against South Africa on Monday.

Knight said: “I knew she would get a hundred, knowing Tammy’s character she would have wanted to prove a point.

 (PA Wire)
(PA Wire)

“Tammy’s ODI form is undisputable. She’s one of the best players in the world and has been for a long time. But we just felt we wanted to be more aggressive in that T20 powerplay.

“At the moment we’ve gone down the line of the ultra-aggressive players who can really take the game on at the front end when there’s only two fielders outside.

“The door’s certainly not closed on Tammy.”