On International Women's Day, we reflect upon the growth of women's cricket at Warwickshire: The success of the team and the opportunities it has brought for individuals like Amy Jones who came all the way through the Bears age-groups and is now in New Zealand with England's squad defending their World Cup title.
When Errol Simms joined Warwickshire’s coaching set up in 2001, among the responsibilities handed to him was for women’s cricket.
The women’s game was, in many ways, still in its infancy, locally and nationally. Edgbaston was always a leader, hosting the first Women’s World Cup final, in which England beat Australia, in 1973 – but there was little structure to the domestic set-up and relatively few girls in it.
Things have come on a long, long way.
Having started in Division Four, Warwickshire’s Women’s team worked their way up the leagues. By 2012, they had risen to Division One and there they have remained. In 2019, captained by Marie Kelly, they won the National T20 title.
That Kelly led them to that triumph offers evidence that a production line of talent at Edgbaston is now in place for the women just as for the men. Kelly is one product of it and there are plenty of others, including Rebecca Grundy, who played 19 games for England, Amy Jones, a linchpin of the current national side, and England A fast-bowler Issy Wong.
Warwickshire’s Women’s set up is productive and thriving and has depth – and that delights Simms who stepped back from direct involvement in it in 2017 to become general manger of the Indoor Centre.
“I think we can all be proud of the women’s set up at Edgbaston and Portland Road. Warwickshire is at the forefront of the women’s game and that’s down to the commitment to it from the club as a whole and the hard work of a lot of people.Errol Simms
“I am proud that I helped to lay the foundations, but it is in the last five years that it has really come on. It’s been fantastic to see the way the women’s game has developed here.
“When we first started in 2001, I remember the early sessions when the girls didn’t know the fielding positions – they just stood in a circle round the batter. As soon as it was taken more seriously, things improved really quickly. Now they are so professional in every way, in terms of cricket skills, fitness and training, and the mental side of it.”
As the Bears women’s teams evolved, very helpful to the process was a number of development tours to South Africa, during one of which came a pivotal moment in the career of Amy Jones.
“Those tours were great for all the girls both in terms of their cricket and, with being away from home and experiencing a different culture, personal development,” said Simms. “All the girls on them benefited, but I remember one of the tours to Cape Town brought us a real bonus.
“We were struggling for a wicketkeeper so asked Amy if she fancied having a go and she said ‘yeah, okay’ in her usual quiet way. She did well and then we worked on her keeping a lot the following year and within 12 months she was in the England set up. We are all very proud of her – a real Bears success story having come all the way through the system.”
That system continues to produce as Warwickshire Women go from strength to strength – and Kelly has loved being part of the rise.
“Back when I started, it was very low-key,” she said. “If you turned up to trials, you got in. Now we have loads of girls in the mix and there is real competition which is fantastic for everybody.
“The work that has been done, led by Errol, over the years has been brilliant with girls welcomed into the academy and Emerging Players Programme and joining with the boys’ sessions.
“We are really grateful for the efforts of the club as a whole but in particular, as captain, I would day the support I have received from Neil Snowball and now Paul Farbrace has really helped us to feel integrated at the club and part of the Bears family.
“I’m really proud to be part of the Bears set-up and of the commitment the club has shown to women’s cricket.”
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