After a highly successful summer in England’s Rachael Heyhoe-Flint Trophy, Scotland’s Kathryn and Sarah Bryce were both recently awarded full-time contracts with Lightning Cricket in England. The pair are the only duo from an Associate nation to receive contracts.
Becoming a full-time professional was a career choice that was never an option for Kathryn or Sarah ahead of taking their places at Loughborough University to study sports science and maths respectively. Moving south was one of few options for the duo to develop their cricket in a full-time capacity within a high-performance programme, albeit as students, unpaid and only for the duration of the academic year.
The Kia Super League provided glimpses of what a professional structure could look like on a domestic level although it was a short-term six-week stint for Kathryn, who became a regular in the Loughborough Lightning side opening the bowling, taking eight wickets in the 2019 campaign. But these scraps of professionalism within the domestic setup have only hinted at their playing potential and the possibilities of the domestic women’s game.
Keeper-Batter Sarah recognises what these contracts mean for women’s cricket, especially for players in Scotland.
’I think it’s such an exciting progression for the women’s game, like growing up a cricket career wasn’t even a thing, not even in my thoughts and then I think when Kirstie [Gordon] played for England that was the first time really that us and people in Scotland were able to see someone Scottish go and make a living out of playing cricket and then take it to that next level.’
‘Hopefully, now Kathryn and I have these new professional contracts more young girls in Scotland can see that there is a future with cricket and it’s just growing more and more which is really exciting.’
Kathryn added: ‘like Sarah said as well when we were growing up there weren’t many options. We saw Leigh Kasperek having to go off and make a decision quite young actually if she wanted to be a professional, she had to move, she had to go to Australia and then try and get over to New Zealand and try and make it that way.’
Now, with the announcement of this investment from the ECB on a domestic level, they are supported financially as well as having increased access and opportunities to develop their game as professional cricketers beyond their lives as students and without having to potentially sacrifice representing their nation to earn a living overseas.
‘Having the opportunity for cricket to be a full-time career is pretty incredible. It’s nice that there’s five of us at Lightning around the group and hopefully that’s only going to grow over the next few years. So, it’s awesome that we now have these structures in place that will hopefully inspire more girls to see cricket as a viable career option.’
‘I also think it shows other Associate nations that it is possible to have professional cricket on some level whether it is introducing a few professional contracts within their team, it might not be to the same level of the ECB contracts but just kind of seeing it’s a possibility to kind of grow from a small number and expand from that should show that it is possible, that there is hope. I think Ireland have done that over the last few years, I think they have six contracts and it shows with that bit of investment that you can really push on with the game,’ said Kathryn.
The duo were not the only representatives from an Associate Member starring in England’s domestic league with Northern Diamonds 21-year-old Sterre Kalis from the Netherlands in excellent form this summer. The Dutchwoman scored three back to back fifties after a shaky start to the tournament. Although, uncertainty looms over her involvement into next year’s tournament with the unknown aftermath of Brexit and Covid implications cited by the Northern Diamonds earlier this week.
All three players have been named in contention for the ICC’s Women’s Associate player of the decade, despite all being in their early twenties; Sarah Bryce 20, Kathryn Bryce 23 and Sterre Kalis 21.
‘It’s just kind of crazy,’ Sarah remarked.
‘I didn’t expect it at all, so yeah when I first saw it, I wasn’t sure if it was true, but it’s a huge honour and its cool to be nominated around some great players and being thought about is pretty special, pretty unexpected really.’
Kathryn was equally stunned by the news.
‘You don’t really expect it, and I think it just shows how consistent we’ve been over the last few years and that’s paid off. But it’s one of those things that you don’t really think about when you’re actually playing. So it’s really nice to have that and I hope it raises the profile of cricket in Scotland as three of the men’s players have been nominated too which I think it shines a bright light on Scottish cricket which is awesome.’
You’re reading Emerging Cricket — brought to you by a passionate group of volunteers with a vision for cricket to be a truly global sport, and a mission to inspire passion to grow the game.
Be sure to check out our homepage for all the latest news, please subscribe for regular updates, and follow EC on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.
Don’t know where to start? Check out our features list, country profiles, and subscribe to our podcast.
Support us from US$2 a month — and get exclusive benefits, by becoming an EC Patron.