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Nat Sciver-Brunt: 'I'd be lying if I said money wasn't a factor'

England and Mumbai Indians allrounder opens up about her club vs country dilemma

Valkerie Baynes
Valkerie Baynes
When Nat Sciver-Brunt earned a whopping £320,000 at the inaugural WPL auction, she had to temper her feelings. Not only was being "sold" a bizarre concept, she had a T20 World Cup match to play that day, alongside England team-mates who had been passed over in the bidding and therefore missed out on a potentially life-changing payday.
As the 2024 fixtures were confirmed - about a month out from the tournament start on February 23 - there was another downside. England were already due to travel to New Zealand for two white-ball series beginning on March 19, just two days after the WPL final where Sciver-Brunt, their star allrounder, was hoping to be lifting back-to-back trophies with Mumbai Indians.
There was no way she could jump on a plane, fly for the best part of an entire day and walk onto the field for the first match.
She had a choice to make, and there's no denying that money played a part in the decision.
"Yeah, I mean, I would be lying if I said no," Sciver-Brunt told ESPNcricinfo's Powerplay podcast. "Having obviously gone for that much in the first year, yeah, it certainly came into consideration.
"Hopefully this weigh-up of club versus country doesn't happen again. I know we've see it happen with the men's side of things and continue to happen for quite a while, and still will. Hopefully these clashes don't happen in the future, which I guess will keep the importance of international cricket and keep that focus for everyone."
Jon Lewis, England Women's head coach, faced a similar dilemma. He will be with UP Warriorz until March 11, with assistant Ashley Noffke taking over if they progress to the knockouts, but hopes the problem can be avoided in future as national boards create a window for the WPL. But that didn't make the situation any easier this time.
Jonathan Finch, director of England Women's cricket, called the players to outline their options and allowed them to make their own decisions. Heather Knight, England's captain, and fast bowler Lauren Bell pulled out of their franchise deals, while Sciver-Brunt, Sophie Ecclestone, Danni Wyatt and Alice Capsey will join up with the England squad for the fourth T20I on March 27, replacing Hollie Armitage and Linsey Smith. Kate Cross will arrive for the subsequent ODI series.
"It is such a hard one, because it's almost like it's a bit of an anomaly, like it'll - well hopefully - will not happen again," Sciver-Brunt said. "With the World Cup coming up, T20 is obviously important as well to our side, but hopefully with the decision that I've made, that will give a chance to some players to have a bit of confidence in themselves in the first three games and be able to show Lewy and Heather what they've got.
"I think it will only be better for our team, whether people have decided to go to New Zealand and not go to the WPL in the end, or hopefully people who have done well in India and got to some pressure matches, which will also help their game. So yeah, it was a tricky decision and I guess individuals have made their own their own choices and hopefully we won't be faced with that again."
Sciver-Brunt revealed she had conversations with Issy Wong, her Mumbai team-mate who was overlooked for England's tour, and Wyatt, who overcame bitter disappointment at not being picked up at the 2023 auction with a deal at UP Warriorz this year.
"Ultimately people made their own decisions, which they should be allowed to," Sciver-Brunt said. "It would be an interesting one, obviously when we get to the latter stages of the tournament, if my team's in there, how it'll feel when England are playing and I'm not there."
It is part of the growing women's franchise scene that scheduling squeezes are increasing. Another idea that women's players are having to come to terms with is the auction.
"The wording of being sold at auction is still a bit baffling," Sciver-Brunt said. "Definitely a new experience that we'd seen before with many editions of the men's IPL. But to be part of it was pretty crazy, intense at times, and also just a weird day with it being during the World Cup.
"This year, I actually watched part of the auction, so sort of got an idea about how it would've gone last year. I'm feeling a lot more settled and a bit more sure about what's going to happen, and excited to get back over to India, and start the competition."
This edition of the WPL marks Sciver-Brunt's third visit to India in the past 12 months, having toured with England late last year when the visitors won their T20I series 2-1 before being thumped by 347 runs in the Test.
England's batting against spin was found wanting at home against Sri Lanka last September, particularly in Sciver-Brunt's absence during their 2-1 T20I series loss, and select groups have been travelling to India for training camps since. She hopes her own experience of playing in subcontinental conditions will benefit her country when they contest this year's T20 World Cup in Bangladesh and the 2025 World Cup in India.
Meanwhile, as a senior player in the England side - her career now spans a decade and 223 internationals across three formats - Sciver-Brunt has embraced leadership as national vice-captain and plans to play her part in supporting skipper Harmanpreet Kaur and her Mumbai team-mates on and off the field. Last year, she was the tournament's second-highest run-scorer with 332 runs, just 13 behind leader Meg Lanning, and took 10 wickets.
"Being a senior player in the England side, I sort of had a bit of experience of that… making sure I have my own responsibility to be passing on knowledge and be open with everyone so that whole group can improve," she said.
"But also that responsibility when we're on the pitch to either speak up if I see something that maybe could make a difference, or also then use my performances to help the side. I feel like I've been playing my cricket like that for the last four or five years, so it doesn't feel too different in that way.
"Obviously with a big price tag, that does add another layer to it, but last year I was lucky that I was in quite a good place in my cricket, so I didn't have to think too much about the performance side of it and just naturally let it happen. I've had a good training block this time, so we'll see how it goes."

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