Clean Bowled

Isa Guha talks with talks with You & I
You played ten years of international cricket for England before retiring in 2012. Why did you call time?
I was quite fortunate to have achieved a lot personally and with the team, so all I could do was develop more as a player and have a hand in making us a more consistent force of dominance. However, I’d reached a point where I needed to weigh my priorities. Having to tackle a bad back alongside training was manageable, but it was taking up more of my time; it became even more of a commitment. That, along with the focus to start a proper career, meant that everything aligned at the right time. Before I retired, I actually felt the best I ever have while bowling. We had just whitewashed New Zealand, and there were lots of talented youngsters coming through the ranks, so it was good to end on a positive note. It certainly wasn’t an overnight decision, and there were many contributing factors, but it all made sense at the time. I still try and play cricket when I can, and I certainly want to give back to the sport.
Tell us about your current stint on the other side of the pitch.
It’s a dream to travel the world and talk about cricket, and with some real legends, too. Working with the likes of Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and Wasim Akram this summer was very special. It’s nice to be able to mix with the guys without it being an issue, which is a testament to the way people are beginning to perceive women in sport. Furthermore, the variety of experiences I’ve had over the last few years – reporter, commentator, hosting TV and radio – has been a great learning curve. I certainly feel more relaxed in front of the camera.
You’ll be covering the 2015 ICC World Cup for ESPN in the Americas and the Caribbean. Excited?
Yes, especially at the prospect of broadcasting cricket to the US. You see, the World Cup is always a wonderful occasion, and I’m expecting some thrilling contests. It’s also a good opportunity to have a look at some of the associate nations on the big stage. As underdogs, they’ll be hoping to create a few upsets.
Who do you support during a game between England and India?
England, as I was born and raised there, and I played for them for a decade. I always want to see India do well, though, and I support them when they play anyone else.
What are the pressing issues in women’s cricket?
The main concern is that some countries will fall behind while others progress. In recent times, we’ve seen huge growth in women’s cricket. At global events, teams such as Sri Lanka, the West Indies and South Africa are holding their own against consistently stronger sides. However, with England going professional, which is an unbelievable feat in itself, other countries will have to follow suit if they are to keep up. That means more support from their respective governing bodies. If the BCCI is serious about their women’s team performing on the biggest stage, improvements are necessary, and that doesn’t mean just player remuneration. Rounded infrastructure support with regard to coaching, medical and physiotherapy accessibility, facilities and competitive fixtures will also be important.
Is there still a lot of sexism in the game?
The perception of women’s sport in the UK has changed substantially in the last few years, especially since the Olympics, when women were treated as equals and recognised in the media at the same level as men. There is still more to be done, but it is definitely moving in the right direction. The media have made a conscious effort to show more women’s sport on television, so the commercial interest has grown. Government backing has been the most influential factor in making things happen. The government’s stance has persuaded sporting boards and the media to increase their support of female stars. In my opinion, India still has a long road ahead. You just have to look at the male cricketers, how they are celebrated throughout the country on billboards, and in magazines and commercials. If the girls are given the same sort of reverence, it could go a long way toward changing the way women are viewed as a whole... perhaps respected better in the community.
What are your interests beyond cricket?
I love music and studied science, but I’m game for anything that inspires me.
Any advice for budding sportspersons?
Train hard, be disciplined, and make sure you enjoy it!      

– as told to Niharika