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Feature

Grace Scrivens, England's natural-born leader, prepares to take on the world

Left-hand opener and right-arm off-spinner with innate captaincy skills is an allrounder in the truest sense

Valkerie Baynes
Valkerie Baynes
14-Jan-2023
Rhys McKenna, captain of Australia, shares a laugh with Grace Scrivens  •  ICC via Getty Images

Rhys McKenna, captain of Australia, shares a laugh with Grace Scrivens  •  ICC via Getty Images

Grace Scrivens made something of a breakthrough in 2021. Her unbeaten 94 off 62 balls as Kent beat Surrey to open their undefeated South East Group season in the Women's County T20 season cemented her status as one to watch at the age of 17.
She had thrown out hints the previous year as Sunrisers' second-highest run-scorer in the inaugural 50-over Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy as women's domestic cricket in England made its way back from a Covid-wrecked season. But Scrivens believes that knock against Surrey was "the first time I'd properly excelled" giving her huge confidence after working hard on her T20 game. It was voted Women's Moment of the Year and Scrivens was named Players' Player of the Year at Kent's end-of-season awards.
But there were those at the county who had been well aware of Scrivens and her immense potential long before that - the sort of potential that sees her preparing to captain England in their opening match of the Women's Under-19 T20 World Cup against Zimbabwe on Sunday. Among them was Dave Hathrill, the Kent Women's head coach.
"It was the way she looks at the game, her awareness of the game, that was so impressive," Hathrill told ESPNcricinfo. "She saw the game differently to a lot of her peers, which is something that you don't often get with somebody her age.
"She had so much clarity about what she wanted to do when she went out and played and a maturity about her game. She was always looking at how she could influence the game, reading conditions. Even when she wasn't a captain of the team she was viewing it from a captain's perspective.
"She took that into her batting as well, which meant that she was always one step ahead of the opposition and one step ahead of the bowler... it's understanding the game from a different perspective, a different lens almost."
Scrivens, who turned 19 in November, was selected for Kent's U11 girls' side as an eight-year-old, meaning she went on to become the first girl to play four seasons with the squad, and was captain for two.
While it was her batting that first stood out as a left-handed opener, her leadership qualities and success bowling right-arm off-breaks makes for a talented allrounder, in the truest sense.
"She loves being involved in the game," Hathrill said. "If there's any way she can have the ball in her hand, the bat in her hand or be in a fielding position where she's influencing the game... if she could wicket-keep and score and umpire at the same time, I know she would."
And so it was. Having started out as a seam bowler and batter, Scrivens quickly discovered that opening in both disciplines "probably wouldn't mix that well". Not wanting to drop her focus on batting, she switched to wicketkeeping for a few years but, at about 5ft10in tall, she realised "keeping wasn't the best way forward". She turned to off-spin, learning a few tricks from her brother, and it became an important part of her game.
She finished as the third-highest run-scorer and leading wicket-taker in the most recent Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy while ranking among her team's top performers with bat and ball in the T20 Charlotte Edwards Cup as her Sunrisers team went winless in both competitions. And Hathrill sees Scrivens thriving with bat, ball and as a leader for years to come.
"I think she can go all the way, and not just to play for England, I think she's got the potential to be a future England captain," Hathrill said. "I think she's got the potential to be one of the best batters in the world, I really do, because I know her, I know that's what will be her driving force.
"As soon as she's ticked off one box she'll be full steam ahead for the next one. I believe in her, and I believe she's got what it takes to go all the way to the top."
Both Hathrill and Scrivens put her joy and ease in the captaincy role down to having started playing at a very early age. Scrivens describes the beginning of her career as "the standard brother, dad in the garden, you go and join in and try and whack some balls over the fence". Heading to her local club followed and she remembers playing softball cricket at age "six or seven", her progress rapid from there.
"I started at a pretty early age so I was always sort of the most experienced in the group," Scrivens told ESPNcricinfo. "When I'm around people that are at a high level I try and absorb as much information as possible and then when it comes to playing... I can just share that knowledge with others, which I really enjoyed."
Scrivens could hardly have hoped for a better opportunity to immerse herself in an elite learning environment than last year's Hundred, where she played all six matches for a London Spirit side missing injured England captain Heather Knight but boasting a formidable line-up including Australia's Beth Mooney and New Zealand's Amelia Kerr.
"I felt out of my depth at points, being asked to open the batting and being up against the best bowlers in the world, but it's taught me so much," Scrivens said. "It's really given me ideas of how to work on my game more. Playing under that sort of pressure in terms of the big crowds and the best teams also helped me in terms of when it comes to other tournaments and other competitions, I can use that knowledge."
England's squad contains three other players with experience in last year's Hundred - seam-bowling allrounder Ryana MacDonald-Gay, who is Scrivens' vice-captain and Kent team-mate, and left-arm spinner Sophia Smale were part of Oval Invincibles' title-winning team and legspinner Hannah Baker played for Welsh Fire.
"We've got a really good team and a very good chance, especially the way we went in our warm-up games," Scrivens said after England had thumped West Indies and Indonesia in their pre-tournament fixtures.
The tournament proper took an intriguing early twist on Saturday when Bangladesh upset Australia by seven wickets in the opening match, leaving the competition looking wide open.
"The way we've gelled as a team has also helped us a lot, we all back each other, all trust each other," Scrivens added. "We're always going to look to take the positive option, which is a real strength of ours. We're quite a fearless team and that's how we're going to try and play our cricket.
"We want to be positive role models and put on a show playing in ways that are going to inspire the next generation, so I think that's also in our mind and we want to show the best side of us."

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo