English cricket star Lauren Winfield-Hill tells us why this action-packed competition is a huge step forward for women in sport
BY SOPHIE GRIFFITHS, IMAGE VIA THE HUNDRED
With a summer jam-packed with physical sporting events to look forward to in 2021, we’re already counting down the days to The Hundred. A new and unmissable cricket competition, it will feature a standalone women’s game between Oval Invincibles and Manchester Originals on 21 July at its first fixture at the Kia Oval.
The Hundred is an action-packed, fast-paced 100 ball cricket competition, blending world-class sport on the pitch with epic entertainment off it to provide a perfect family friendly day out.
This is the first time in history that a women’s match will kick off a major mixed-team sporting competition, making this a huge moment that will raise the bar for women in sport. It will also offer equal prize money for the winners of both the men’s and women’s competitions.
To find out more about what’s set to be one of the must-see events this summer, DIVA caught up with England cricket player and LGBTQI sporting legend, Lauren Winfield-Hill, who will be captaining The Northern Superchargers team.
DIVA: How did you get to this point in your career?
Lauren Winfield-Hill: I grew up with sport as my thing. It was never necessarily cricket but I just loved all sorts of sports! It wasn’t until I went to Loughborough University and did a Sports Science degree, where I channeled my efforts towards cricket, that my love blossomed. I played for the academy alongside my degree and didn’t properly get into the academy until I was 21. I was only there for six months before I then debuted for England. I’ve played for quite a while but there’s plenty more life left in me yet.
How did you get involved in The Hundred tournament?
This was supposed to be launched last year but because of Covid-19 it’s been pushed back. It’s a pretty exciting tournament as a local player because so many of the best players in the world have signed up to come and play. That coupled with all the England players available and all the best local talent England has to offer, makes it the all singing, all dancing bells and whistles competition we need to raise our profile. I’m captain of one of the teams too, which is awesome. It’s going to be so exciting and will be massive for raising women’s profile in cricket.
Why is this such a significant event for women in sport?
I’m fortunate to be an England contracted player and I’ve been lucky enough to be one of the first professionally contracted players. I’m full-time, but in England the domestic players aren’t employed full-time. The Hundred will give local players the opportunity to pitch themselves against some of the best players in the world and to be noticed among that crop of players. The financial rewards of a high profile competition are also important. It gives the next crop of players the opportunity to push their name forward.
What can people expect from The Hundred this summer?
World class players, excitement and entertainment. I think it will be a very aggressive game of cricket which is what people want to see. Watching live sport, whether it’s in person or on TV, is one of the rays of sunshine we have at the minute.
What are you most looking forward to about the event?
I’m looking forward to leading the girls and representing the north. I’m also looking forward to playing with girls from all over the world, who usually I’d be playing against. It’ll be nice to play with them and learn from some of the best players in the world.
I’m really excited to see our home-grown talent and showcase that for the girls who haven’t had the opportunity at that level. International sport has still gone ahead for us, but there’s so many girls who are absolutely chomping at the bit to get out there again.
Do you have any advice for women who are interested in getting involved in cricket but are scared to start?
Embrace being different. I was known as the only girl in the boys’ leagues. But it’s a good thing. You can see it two ways, you’re the black sheep, but you’re also the only one who is unique enough to do it and has the confidence to do it. If you love it, don’t let anyone deter you away from it no matter what it is. Being different is a good thing and it shouldn’t be something that’s frowned upon, it sets you apart from other people.
What are your own personal experiences being a LGBTQI woman in sport? Have you had to face any difficulties?
It took a long time for me to come out explicitly. It was more like: “Here are some photos, interpret as you wish.” I got married last year and came out because the world then knew that I had married a woman. Until I got married I was never fully comfortable with it. When I had all of my friends and family there, absolutely smothered in love for us, nothing else mattered. Everybody else’s opinions became void from that day. I didn’t really receive any backlash. It’s been nothing but love and support and I wish I’d done it 10 years ago. But you never know and you’ve got to find yourself as a person and find your confidence, which took me a long time.
🚨 HUGE news just in! 🚨— The Hundred (@thehundred) February 23, 2021
The women’s competition launches The Hundred with Oval Invincibles hosting Manchester Originals for our *first ever* match! 🙌
What more can we do to improve diversity and access for women in sport?
We need to jump on each other’s bandwagon. We should all pull each other up and be each other’s hype girls. Even if it’s just sharing each other’s stories, we have to show that it’s not one stand alone team. All of the teams in England should be united. If you’re not competing against each other it doesn’t matter. For example, we aren’t competing against the England football team so we should support them.
Do you think the level of inclusion for women is different between various sports?
I think so. The professionalism and the support structures vary across the board. I’m lucky to be in a sport that’s quite privileged in some senses. Football and cricket in England are very well supported financially by supporters and by their systems, but I don’t think that’s the case across the board. My wife plays rugby for Leeds Rhinos and they’re very much classed as an amateur team even though they’re the best team in the country for rugby league.
How can we move forward and make a change?
It’s always been the case that if you want to get paid, you’ve got to win global competitions. But that can’t be the way. You can’t just make a team contracted if they win the Super League. It’s got to be a movement within the league. We have to set the standard. We have to give players match fees so everyone knows they have to do the same or they’ll lose players. Then you have a whole movement of a league putting finances into the women’s game and then it’ll be contagious across the other teams. We have to keep it progressing each year and keep improving.
The Hundred kicks off on 21 July with Oval Invincibles v Manchester Originals. Tickets available online from 7 April for those who have signed up at TheHundred.com
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