At yesterday’s freewheelin’ press conference to announce his new captain, Mark Robinson was his usual loquacious self, discussing any number of subjects with thoughtful honesty.
Reflecting on what he said, it is clear that Heather Knight’s appointment is part of a long term strategy which looks way beyond 2017 – a tournament which he readily admitted England might not win.
“This is a new era of cricket – we need to be embracing it… [but] the World Cup might be too soon for this team. We have the ambition to win it but… we had to make some changes… [and] whether that is in time for the next World Cup, to go and win it, I don’t know.”
Although Heather Knight had long been the heir apparent, Robinson was very clear that she was nevertheless very-much his choice – a new, young captain for a new, young era:
“We’ve got an outstanding individual in Heather Knight. She’s stubborn! She’s a bit annoying at times because she’s got her own opinion, which is absolutely as it should be! She’s comfortable in her own skin, she’s comfortable in her own company, and they’re great qualities for a captain… The ability to command a room… They were the qualities that hit me straight away when I met her.”
But he emphasised too that Knight is a player first and foremost, and also still a partly unfulfilled one:
“She’s a great player now but she has the potential to be an outstanding player… We’ve got to help her – make sure she is allowed to work on her own game – that’s the job of the coaches – to allow her space to get her game in order… [because] fundamentally… she is not England captain first, she is a player.”
The emphasis on youth and the long term has, of course, meant some difficult decisions, not least the sacking of Charlotte Edwards, but Robinson was forthright in his defence:
“It’s actually about putting things in place that will allow this team to have the best chance of being successful in the long-term, not the short-term. You’ve got to stop making short-term decisions. This is a long-term decision. You’ve now got a person at the age of 25 who can lead their country for a long time.”
In terms of the teams for this summer, Robinson wanted to emphasise that he is definitely looking beyond the current “contracted” squad:
“Myself and [Assistant Coach] Ali Maiden, we’re trying to integrate the Academy into us… trying to involve them with the main team as much as we can. Likewise with the Under-19s – we’re trying to get it more integrated.”
“Every single girl who’s in the Performance Squad and the Academy are up for selection for the next match.”
And an almost throw-away remark on selection actually spoke volumes in this regard:
“We’ve got 2 left-armers who deserve to play.”
But there is only one left-armer in the contracted squad, so Robinson can only have been referring to an Academy player (presumably Alex Hartley) as the other!
On the wicket keeping situation however, it seems they won’t be looking for any additional coverage in the absence of Sarah Taylor:
“Amy Jones has been on that many tours and not played with the gloves, so she is desperate to have a go. Lauren Winfield keeps for Yorkshire… [so] we’ve got two very able backups.”
Also on the subject of selection, Robinson said that Knight will be a part of the process:
“Heather will have a huge selection voice – trying to shut her up might be the problem. Heather has a huge say in the team that she wants on the pitch.”
Ruminating on the contracts, and indeed the very nature of the current “professionalism”, Robinson hinted that situation too might need to evolve.
“I can’t get enough contact sometimes with the girls. They’ve got other commitments, because they have to. They have to do other things to supplement their income, some of them. They’re all on one-year contracts going forward. Is that right? I don’t know!”
“I don’t know!” seems to be an answer Mark Robinson is honest enough to give quite a lot; but one thing he clearly does know is that he and his new skipper Heather Knight are in this for the long term; and that’s good, because as fans, we are too, and we too are excited to share the ride.