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Kathryn Bryce on FairBreak, Scotland and The Hundred
Jay speaks to Scotland captain and all-rounder Kathryn Bryce who will turn out for the Warriors at the FairBreak Invitational
Kathryn Bryce’s earliest memory of watching cricket is the 2005 Men’s Ashes series. Her whole family would gather in the living room in front of the TV while young Kathryn and younger sister Sarah would give each other throwdowns.
Unsurprisingly, Andrew Flintoff was her first cricketing hero, which is only fitting for the Scottish all-rounder who in December 2020 was crowned the ICC Women’s Associate Cricketer of the Decade.
‘We’ve always played a lot of sports together in the garden. Anything that you can hit and kick and throw really,’ says Bryce in conversation with All Over Cricket.
Tennis was the first sport she developed an interest in before she started playing cricket and hockey. When Bryce was nine years old, she received a mass-mailed letter at home from former Scotland International Liz Smith who was starting a girl’s team at her school George Watson’s College (GWC). She signed up right away for what was her first-ever taste of organized cricket training.
‘I don’t know if I would have gotten into [cricket] if there wasn’t a girl’s team at the school,’ admits Bryce, who is thankful to Smith, renowned as one of the pioneers of Scottish women’s cricket.
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As there were no other girls’ school teams in Edinburgh at the time, GWC played a lot of games against University teams, comprised of players who, much like the teenaged Bryce, had just begun their cricketing journeys. Whereas there wasn’t a strong school or club cricket pathway when Bryce first got into cricket, things have changed a lot since then.
‘I remember going to a cricket festival down in Perth [when I was a child] and there were maybe six or seven girls teams that had come along, whereas a few years ago I went back and it was absolutely packed! There were hundreds of kids from different schools, clubs, and organizations,’ she remarks.
The talented Bryce’s cricketing journey continued after she graduated from GWC. She was accepted into Loughborough University, where she pursued a Sports Science degree in addition to playing for the Loughborough Lightning, a Women’s Cricket Super League team based out of the university.
In 2020, following the restructuring of English women’s domestic cricket, which included the creation of eight regional hub teams, the Loughborough Lightning were disbanded, and essentially reborn as the Lightning — a regional team covering a larger area across the East Midlands.
At the same time, in an unprecedented move, the ECB funded 40 full-time domestic contracts — outside the centrally contracted pool of national players — spread equally across the eight regional hubs. This number has now expanded to 51, and it means that players like Bryce — who has since graduated from Loughborough University — no longer have to juggle playing and training with work. It also means that for the first time a female cricketer outside the main England setup could earn a sustainable income from the sport.
To complete this set of reforms was the launch of The Hundred, where Bryce played for the Natalie Sciver-led Trent Rockets. While she arguably didn’t get as many opportunities with the bat as she deserved — being used primarily as a bowler — she benefitted from being in an environment where each squad included three England contracted players and three overseas players.
In spite of being criticized for, among other things, undermining the traditions of the men’s county game, the Hundred was a game-changer for English Women’s Cricket. The marketing behind the women’s competition and the grounds used for the women’s games were on par with their male counterparts.
‘[The Hundred] was huge!’ exclaims Bryce. ‘The number of kids you saw at the end of the games and how it brought new fans and players to the game. A lot of people came [specifically] to see the women’s game. It’s not like “Oh! I’ll come at the end of the women’s game so I can watch the men”,’ she adds.
Without a doubt, the attendance figures vindicated these overdue, yet encouraging investments into women’s cricket. The inaugural game between the Oval Invincibles and the Manchester Originals was a last-over thriller, which set the tone for the rest of the tournament, and not just the women’s competition. Attendance for that fixture peaked at 7395, which was viewed as a huge win for the women’s game.
Yet, things only got better. A week later, 15,189 attended a game between the London Spirit and the Southern Brave. To cap it off, 17,116 fans witnessed the final between the Invincibles and the Southern Brave. By the end of the tournament, the average match day attendance at the women’s competition stood at 9,536.
‘The visibility [was also huge]. So many of mum’s colleagues have known that [Sarah and I] played cricket for years and they’ve kind of followed us, but then [during The Hundred] they really got into it and properly followed it,’ she said.
The all-rounder has carried her experiences from the Hundred into international cricket for Scotland, whom she has captained since 2018. In August of last year, she scored 46* (58) to help Scotland chase down 89 against Ireland on a dry and uneven pitch at the T20 World Cup European Qualifier in La Manga, Spain.
While it may not seem like a big achievement, the pitch used for that game is one of the most challenging tracks used for a T20 contest that this writer has ever seen. Bryce’s well-paced innings, which featured three maximums, helped Scotland recover from 20/4 after 9 overs and qualify for the T20 World Cup Global Qualifier, which will be held later this year.
Scotland would have to wait more than six months for their next set of international fixtures at the Commonwealth Games Qualifier held in January of this year. Unfortunately, they were unable to get over the line against Full Members Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, against whom they were bowled out for 73 and 77, respectively.
These scores, however, don’t tell the entire story of a team transitioning to a more aggressive brand of batting under influential coach Mark Coles, who has since stepped down in order to spend more time with his family.
‘When you look at the scorecards, it doesn’t necessarily look brilliant but as an associate member, it was exciting how went about it. The positivity with the bat, and just going out there and backing our skills. Being able to do that against Sri Lanka sets up a really good platform for us going forward,’ she said.
Bryce’s next assignment is at the FairBreak Invitational from May 4th – 15th in Dubai, where she will play for the Warriors led by USA’s Sindhu Sriharsha. The team also features the likes of Hayley Matthews, Mignon du Preez, and Australian left-hander Georgia Redmayne.
‘It’s such an exciting organisation to be a part of,’ says Bryce of FairBreak, who’ve previously organized exhibition games between teams comprised of associate and full member players.
‘It’s not “Oh! We’ll try to do a little bit for equality.” It’s like “No. We’re giving everything and it’s going to be equal. We’re going to pay you what you deserve and we’re going to treat you as you should be treated”,’
The Scotland skipper is also convinced of the commercial viability of the competition, believing it will be just as popular with English and Australian fans as it will be with the growing market of associate cricket aficionados.
‘They don’t necessarily enjoy watching [just] England and Australia, they [also] want to see the smaller teams playing,’ she opines.
As the leading seam-bowling all-rounder in the Warriors unit, Bryce will shoulder a lot of responsibility to propel her side into the knockout stages.
However, as anyone who has tracked her international and domestic career can attest to, this is usually when Bryce is at her dangerous best.
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