Who is Heather Knight? It is a question a lot of people will be asking over the next few months… and one not many people will really know the answer to. I’ve been following her closely at Berkshire for several years now, and I’m not actually sure I know the answer either.
I know the numbers of course – 3,000 runs for Berkshire since she arrived in 2010, at an average of 54, including 8 centuries and 19 fifties – she has been comfortably the most consistent batsman in county cricket over that period.
But Heather Knight “the person” has remained something of an enigma.
Certainly she is a very different character to her predecessor.
Where Charlotte Edwards’ team talks in the huddle were animated, pumped-up and occasionally “post-watershed”; Heather’s are calm, directed and focused.
Where Charlotte Edwards would greet a century with arms aloft, like a footballer celebrating a goal; Heather will likely do little more than raise her bat to the pavillion, usually with a modest “aw-shucks” expression on her face.
Where Charlotte Edwards was gregarious, greeting you by name if she saw you at a match, Heather is more introverted, keeping herself largely to herself, reflecting the fact that, as Mark Robinson mentioned in his press conference last week, she is “comfortable in her own company”.
More generally, in terms of England, Heather has always stood apart slightly from her teammates.
She didn’t go to Loughborough (she studied at Cardiff); she doesn’t live in Loughborough (she has settled in London). Unlike many (some might argue too many?) players, she maintains a close circle of friends outside the game; and her idea of a good time is more ‘quiet pint in a country pub’ than ‘big night out on the town’.
She remains very close to her parents, who like Heather herself, don’t want a lot of fuss – you’ll often see them at games sitting anonymously amongst the crowd. (I recall sitting next to them once at an England match, whilst the people in the row in front earnestly and loudly debated for several minutes which one of the fielders was Heather – they said nothing!)
What I can say with certainty, is that those who do know Heather – from Berkshire to Hobart, where she plays in Australia’s WBBL – absolutely love her. Why? I think it is because they know that not only is she the best player, but she brings out the best in them too.
If players were forces of nature, Sarah Taylor would be a volcano – veering between dormant and explosive; Charlotte Edwards might be a great river – pushing on relentlessly; but Heather Knight is more like gravity – she may be less visible, but she still has a powerful effect on everything around her… and that’s about to include England too!