Knight's appointment as Somerset board advisor a masterstroke, says Lewis

Meanwhile, England head coach urges Diamonds to hand Bess Heath the keeping gloves

Valkerie Baynes
Valkerie Baynes
Heather Knight bats at the ECB's launch of a national tape-ball competition in Birmingham, April 18, 2024

Heather Knight bats at the ECB's launch of a national tape-ball competition in Birmingham  •  ECB/Getty Images

Somerset have played a blinder in appointing England captain Heather Knight to a board advisory role as it builds a team to compete in the top flight of the new domestic women's competition next year.
That is the stance of England Women's head coach Jon Lewis, who said he had briefly discussed the post with Knight before Somerset announced this week that she would join their board to advise on cricketing matters.
Somerset, Durham and Essex will join Surrey, Hampshire, Lancashire, Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire in Tier 1 of the new women's domestic competition in England and Wales from next season after making successful bids to the ECB. A further two teams - Yorkshire and Glamorgan - will join them by 2027.
"Somerset have made a really smart decision in getting someone involved in their board who's got a real intrinsic knowledge of women's cricket," Lewis said on Friday, with Knight once again set to lead England's squads for the T20I and ODI series against Pakistan from May 11. "[She] will really help them set up a new team, which I think will be a challenge for Somerset - a really, really big challenge for Somerset, Essex, and Durham, the teams that have got new teams.
"I think that would be a really tricky thing for them to do over the next four or five months, and to have someone who has this experience around will be great. I don't think it's going to affect her involvement or her responsibilities as England captain. Heather's very, very adept at managing her time and she's an incredibly smart woman and she'll be able to manage that, I think, without any problem whatsoever. But I think Somerset have made a really good signing."
Somerset's outgoing CEO Gordon Hollins has said that while Knight's role would not be limited to women's cricket, the timing of her appointment was critical as the club prepared to enter a team at the top level of the new competition.
Currently Somerset, Glamorgan and Gloucestershire act as feeder clubs for Western Storm in the regional 50-over Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy and 20-over Charlotte Edwards Cup.
With the regional set-up due to be disbanded after this summer, many players face moving to different cities to play at the highest level, or playing in the lower tiers of the new competition.
Knight was acutely aware of the challenges facing those players when the successful Tier 1 bids were announced, saying that the prospect of having to relocate from Leeds to Durham, for example, had caused "quite an unsettling time" for some of the Yorkshire-based players at Northern Diamonds. "It's important that the girls are looked after and helped to transition into the new structure," she said.
Meanwhile, Bess Heath may find herself taking the wicketkeeping gloves more for Northern Diamonds after being ear-marked as Amy Jones' understudy in the England set-up.
Lewis said he was concerned that former England batter Lauren Winfield-Hill had been preferred behind the stumps for the opening four games of this year's RHFT with Heath playing as a specialist batter in the three matches for which she was available, and that Heath had discussed the matter with Diamonds head coach Dani Hazell.
"It does really concern me that one of the best young wicketkeepers in the country isn't keeping wicket," Lewis said. "She's a really dynamic batter and we hope that she's able to keep wicket for the Diamonds. I haven't personally spoken to Dani Hazell, but I know that Bess has spoken to Dani Hazell and they'll be talking about that moving forward from this point."
Heath's importance as a back-up keeper for England was emphasised after Tammy Beaumont, who could conceivably step in during an emergency, was overlooked for the T20I squad to face Pakistan, starting in Birmingham in a week's time.
The 22-year-old Heath made her international debut in the third ODI against Sri Lanka at Grace Road last September and went on to play one T20I in India in December and three T20Is on England's recent tour of New Zealand.
"What I don't want to do is stop Bess's development by being a squad player for England and just moving around the world, carrying the drinks and just training," Lewis said. "We need to balance her development with as equal a dose of playing as we can, whilst also having cover for Amy Jones because we would look a little bit silly if Amy injured a finger during a game or during warm-ups and we didn't have a keeper around.
"I'm really excited about Beth. She's a really cool person, she's a great person to have around. She's a really enthusiastic young cricketer and she's got a lot to learn and a lot to develop. Hopefully we can do that in and around her England involvement."

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor, women's cricket, at ESPNcricinfo