Top England cricketer from Preston explains why girls are no longer 'Cinderella' on the pitch
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But she explained girls will now go to the ‘ball’ as they are no longer the ‘Cinderellas’ of cricket. England cricket star Emma is just 24 but when she started out in the game she was reliant on ill-fitting hand-me-down gear such as pads and gloves. She reveals there was nothing specifically designed for girls and women and says that’s been very slow to change. In effect, they’ve truly been the Cinderellas of cricket but a quiet revolution has been going on in Yorkshire to change all that, helped by Lancastrian Emma who comes from Preston.
Ex-cricketer and cricket coach Jeff Wilson launched Viking Cricket and has been working quietly behind the scenes with top female cricketers to design the very best-fitting equipment for girls and women. Known as the Viking Valkyrie range, many top female players now use the specially designed gear.
Emma, an opening batter for England who scored her first century in international cricket against South Africa in the summer, is the sister of Lancashire player Danny Lamb.
The former Edge Hill college student said: “When I began playing I used to get a lot of my brother’s hand-me-down kit and it just didn’t fit. There really was nothing available for girls and women and Viking Cricket has helped to change all that and made such an important difference. The bats I used were so heavy and long they even left an indent in my arm every time I hit the ball. Women’s cricket has really lagged behind when it comes to equipment such as bats, pads and gloves that needed to be specifically designed for women. I now always use a Viking bat as it’s lighter and a bit shorter but means I just feel so comfortable when I play and that makes all the difference.”
Jeff revealed there is a real science behind making the perfect bat. He said: “With professional female players we make the bats specific to each of them as every player’s needs are different and even playing in different competitions can require a slightly different bat. If you’re playing a short game like the hundred where it’s about hitting runs and boundaries, your bat might be slightly different than your normal everyday bat. We would make it so more of the meat was in the area needed to allow this.” He added: “When it’s your career and especially our players' careers at stake it’s important to have the right equipment and equipment you can trust. Let’s be honest, when you’re opening the batting for England you want to have the best.”
Jeff said when he was designing other cricket equipment known as softs, such as gloves and pads, measuring was all-important. “We measured a junior girls’ team and a women’s team so we could get an average of the sizes for the items,” he said. “We also made sure that in these pieces of equipment the tags are marked correctly to say it’s for women or girls. It’s little things like this that really make the difference.”
Jeff said the lack of proper cricketing gear in the past has stopped some female players progressing as quickly as they would with better-fitting equipment. He added: “In the past female cricketers have just been given youths or men’s hand-me-downs which isn’t ideal at all because they don’t fit properly so you would find players’ struggling to bat properly or running in batting pads that were too big for them. All of this means that a cricketer isn’t reaching their potential.”
Viking has worked closely with Jenny Gunn MBE who played for England for 15 years until 2019 to fine tune the designs for gloves and pads. Jeff said: “Female cricketers tend to have smaller wrists, so their gloves are smaller in the wristband, and they also tend to have smaller calves than your average man so we adjusted these to make them fit better.” Viking now works with the online Female Cricket Store set up by former England international Lydia Greenway to make this equipment as accessible as possible to all female cricketers.
Jeff added: “Both Lydia and I can’t believe how many parents comment on social media saying they can’t get female gear. They can now. It’s moved on so much in recent years and providing the right equipment has been so important to help female cricketers improve their game. It’s something we’ll continue to develop. It means a lot that many professionals choose to work with us. We currently have players in Australia using the Valkyrie range as well as others here at home in the hundred. We are looking forward to seeing Emma opening the batting for England in the West Indies in the near future.”
Emma plays for Lancashire Women, North West Thunder and Manchester Originals, and has previously played for Lancashire Thunder. Lamb is a batting all-rounder, and bowls off spin. She made her international debut for the England women's cricket team in September 2021. Her brother Danny – the siblings are separated by two school years - plays for the Lancashire men's team, and she played alongside him when she became the first female cricketer to take part in the Cheshire County Premier League. She previously studied Sport and Exercise Science at Edge Hill College.