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Heather Knight unsurprised by ICEC report after experiences of sexism

England captain recalls being asked if she did "the ironing for the men" in her team as a youngster

Valkerie Baynes
Valkerie Baynes
Heather Knight addresses the media, Trent Bridge, June 21, 2023

Heather Knight addresses the media  •  PA Images/Getty

Heather Knight says she is not surprised by the findings of a damning report into inequality in cricket, recounting her own experience of sexism in the sport.
Responding to the report and recommendations of the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC) released this week, Knight, the England Women's captain, said that while much progress had been made, there was still a "long way to go". She also recalled how she had been asked if she did "the ironing for the men" when she played men's cricket as a youngster.
"It's been really sad to hear about anyone that's not felt welcome in our game - nobody should be made to feel unwelcome in our sport," Knight said on the eve of England's first T20I against Australia in the Women's Ashes at Edgbaston, where more than 19,000 tickets have been sold.
"This is a really important step for cricket, and cricket - having done this report - can really lead the way in terms of being more equitable, more diverse and more inclusive," Knight said. "It's really important for me to say as a woman in cricket it's not at all surprising, the recommendations that have come out of the report - but it's really important to say cricket has come a hell of a long way since I was a kid.
"I started out playing men's club cricket and being asked 'do you do the ironing for the men when you finish playing?'. Tomorrow I'll lead my side out in front of a near full-house with 85,000 tickets sold for the whole series.
"Cricket has come very far but it's also got a long way to go. As a group of England women cricketers we feel really strongly about this. We want to be a key part of that in pushing the game forward."
The ICEC report found that racism, sexism, elitism and class-based discrimination have existed and still exist within the game.
Knight, who was among 4000 people to give evidence to the commission for its 317-page report titled "Holding Up a Mirror to Cricket", is only aged 32, so her experience is by no means 'historical' and she said such behaviour was still going on. But she said she was encouraged by changing attitudes and would encourage young girls to take up the sport.
"There still are instances where this goes on but I think it has changed a lot," Knight said. "I went to watch a friend, a female in an [otherwise] male team recently, and she got quite a hostile reaction because she was female from one player in the other team. But I think the reaction of the people on the field was really important and I don't think that probably would have happened previously.
"Everyone can be an ally of anyone in the sport and make people feel welcome. So if you're younger and want to get into cricket, I'd say, do it, there's no better time. I wish I was a youngster getting into cricket now. There's no better time to be a female playing cricket so yeah, come and join in and hopefully you feel welcome."
Among the report's 44 recommendations was a call for equal pay between women and men at domestic level by 2029 and international level by 2030. The report also said ICEC was "alarmed" by the "truly appalling" fact that England Women have never played a Test at Lord's, saying: "The 'home of cricket' is still a home principally for men."
The third ODI against India at Lord's last year was the first time England Women had played a match at Lord's since they won the 2017 World Cup final there, although they are due to play their third T20I against Australia at the venue on July 8. And Richard Thompson, the ECB chair, has said England Women will host a Lord's Test in 2026, acknowledging that it should have happened sooner.
"I'd love to play a Test match at Lord's and it's very nice to see Richard Thompson say the other day that there'll be a Test match there in the next few years, that's brilliant," Knight said. "We've actually got a game at Lord's later in the week, I'm really excited to play that, it's a place that's very special. We've obviously won a World Cup there as well which makes it even more special for the girls that were involved in that.
"I'm also involved with the MCC Foundation, which is a charity that do a hell of a lot of work with state school children in this country and a hell of a lot of work overseas as well. So, yeah, it would be nice to play a Test match there in the future and that sounds like it's going to happen."
As ticket sales for this Women's Ashes series hit record levels, Knight paid tribute to the pioneering work of players like Rachael Heyhoe Flint, who in 1976 became the first woman cricketer to set foot - in a playing capacity - on the main ground at Lord's when she captained England in an ODI against Australia. She was also central to the campaign to allow women to become members of MCC in 1998, becoming one of the first female members of the club the following year. A gate named after her was unveiled at Lord's last year.
"The crowds seem pretty good actually for The Oval and Lord's which is great to see and just thinking about people that weren't allowed in at certain places in cricket previously and how they fought to get a seat at the table and have their voices heard, I think is really important," Knight said.
"Rachael Heyhoe Flint at Lord's [is] probably the most obvious in terms of that so those sort of pioneers we're very thankful for and hopefully that change can really accelerate and move on."

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