First team: Eloise Porter

In conversation with the cricket coach and captain of Hampstead Cricket Club, alongside her mother Rosalyn Porter, Director of Women’s Cricket at Oxford Cricket Club.

What is your relationship with cricket?

Eloise: I’ve played cricket since I could stand in the garden. I started playing competitively when I was 7 and had my first match with the boys when I was 9. Cricket is a big part of my life: I am Captain of the Women’s team at Hampstead CC but also a qualified coach and umpire, and hold responsibilities in various committees. I like the nuances, the different skills needed when you play cricket. It is a very mental game and I love the spirit of the sport.

Rosalyn: Cricket has always been part of our family. I am Director of Women’s and Girls Cricket at Oxford CC and have been an administrator at the club for over 20 years now. I have embraced the game in different capacities: I can umpire, score, coach and play. I like the etiquette and diversity – the potential to be a wonderful, inclusive platform mixing different ages, genders and abilities.

Your first cricket memories?

Eloise: One of my favourites: for my 4th birthday, I got a cat costume and a mini cricket set. I have lots of memories actually, as my parents were taking us to games all the time. When I was 8, I really looked like a boy. I remember I was playing on the side of the pitch and this gentleman turned to my mum saying: “I was watching your son play cricket, he is fantastic”. To which she replied: “actually that’s my daughter”. I was thrilled, I was “one of the boys”! (laughter). Also, not one of my first, but definitely best memories: watching the boys’ faces when we, girls, showed up to Eton as part of Wellington’s cricket team. That was something!

Rosalyn: Eloise was used to playing with the boys from an early age and we never made an issue out of it, it was just normal and we got on with it. When we went to look round for boarding schools, one of the criteria was: “Will our girls be able to play in the boys’ team?”. If they had say no, we would have walked away. It was that important to us.

How do you feel women’s cricket has evolved in the last few years?

Rosalyn: Cricket can now be envisaged as a paid career. It was not an option for women before, and now this is something girls can genuinely consider. However, we still have to see that feeding through into cricket clubs…

Eloise: When I was a teenager it was more a hobby for a girl. Now it is taken more seriously – I’m starting to tell the girls I coach that if they put their mind to it, it could be their living. That’s really special. Also the 100 is a step towards having women play more, and be more visible. I would still love to see more test cricket for women – it is the pinnacle of the game, where you can really develop as a player. But we still don’t really have access to it unfortunately.

What challenges are women and girls still facing when playing cricket?

Rosalyn: Historically, women have to travel further to play games as there are less women teams. And it is getting even more challenging as you grow into the game, with top teams being sometimes hours away from each other.

Eloise: Absolutely. Availability and getting new players are also major issues. Besides, we would ideally need more women in the running of the game, so that it becomes more accessible. We are on the right track but it still feels like the girls may not be pushed as much as the boys – which should hopefully change over time.

Rosalyn: It is critical to find ways to keep girls engaged. The best way is to create squads and truly individualise each player, but to do that you need a lot of resources: experienced coaches, volunteers, time and ground space.

What are your views on cricket sportswear?

Rosalyn: I remember placing an order for new shirts at Oxford CC four years ago and the debates that followed! Some players wanted tight shirts, some loose ones. Everybody had different expectations. Having the choice is critical.

Eloise: To be honest, I think I only recently started to care, as before there was absolutely no choice – I have played in men’s kit my whole life. I usually play in whites and wear shorts underneath as unfortunately most trousers are see-through. I usually have big, comfortable clothing, but when I am training I like to look smart. I also make sure my legs are covered as I get a lot of bruises! Whites are still the standard but many clubs slowly move to coloured clothing, which is welcomed by teenage girls in particular, who might find whites unpractical at certain times of the month.

Any advice or practical tips for girl cricketers and their mothers?

To the girls: Be supportive of each other and talk. Work as a unit. Be proud of your bruises (just use arnica!). Keep your fingernails and toenails short. Make sure your helmet fits snuggly. And, of course, enjoy the game!

To mothers: Give your daughter the confidence to play, and to believe in themselves – not feeling as an oddity in the team because they are a girl. Don’t let your daughter overplay to avoid overuse injuries. It’s all about getting the balance right! Last but not least, encourage them to ask questions. Mine always have! 

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