England's Womens's Cricket hero Clare Connor

As a young girl did you focus on cricket as your sport or were you like Andy Murray and just passionate about sport more generally?

I loved all sport and played hockey and squash to a good standard but it was cricket that obsessed me from as young as I can recall. Our cricket club, Preston Nomads in the South Downs, was a second home to me. Dad played there for decades and it became my club too. No other girls played in the junior section of the club, but I was embraced and made to feel like one of the boys. One of my earliest memories is of sitting on the doorstep crying if I couldn't go and watch my Dad play cricket because Mum had other plans for us! After a 12 hour day at work, my Dad would shed his suit jacket and hit catches at me in the garden until dark or until my hands were too sore to carry on...whichever came first!

Do you have a sporting icon, male or female that helped drive your ambition and passion?

Ian Botham was my hero when I was old enough to know what one was. I was 5 years old during the 1981 Ashes series in this country and Botham's performances inspired me so much. I used to watch his videos, "Bothams's Ashes" and "That Man Botham", over and over. My Dad was certainly not a sporting icon but he was my hero as much as anyone.

Cricket, as with many other sports, is a heavily orientated male field, has this made it harder or easier to shine?

Oddly perhaps, it made it easier for me to shine when I then started playing women's cricket in my mid-teens. All my early experiences were of being the only girl in boys' teams. From when I was 8 through to opening the batting for Brighton College 1st XI and touring Zimbabwe with them - I was the only girl. Looking back, it was obviously an unusual situation, but it didn’t feel that way because of the support, nurturing and mentoring I had all around me. This grounding stretched me, my skills and my fitness. To earn my selection, I almost had to be better than the boys around me at the club and at school, not simply just as good. This made me very driven to practice harder than the boys and I think I retained that work ethic throughout my career with the England women's team. Nowadays, the landscape couldn’t be more different for girls with a passion for cricket. Yes, they could still follow the route I did, but they can also play so much more girls only cricket because the game for women and girls is more developed with club competitions, leagues and girls' County age group teams all in existence and going from strength to strength.

You were awarded an OBE, Order of the British Empire, what was this for and what did it mean to you at the time you were told?

This honour was bestowed upon me for Services to Sport. How did I feel? Stunned, proud, undeserving...I had received the MBE only 18 months prior in summer 2004. I then captained England to regain the Ashes (after 42 years of Australian dominance) in the summer of 2005 and this was the catalyst for being awarded the OBE. I received it from the Queen in January 2006 at the same time as the whole of the England men's team received the MBE for also winning the Ashes in the summer of 2005. However, I was the only member of the England women's team to be honoured and I felt uncomfortable about that as it had taken such a monumental effort to beat the Aussies. All that said, it was one of those rare days in life that will always stay with me and I still have to pinch myself when I see the letters after my name. It doesn’t really ever sink in, I don't think.

Sport and fashion is often seen as a healthy mix such as Ralph Lauren for Wimbledon, do you think this has greater opportunities in women's sport and if so, women's cricket?

I would love to think so. I think that we have to promote women's cricket to a range of audiences and utilising the fashion industry more could probably help us reach more of those audiences. If the players look good when they are off the pitch, whether in casual wear or on formal occasions, they will be identifiable and probably have more chance of becoming household names.

When you were travelling as captain of the ladies cricket team, what where you top 3 ‘must have’ items when packing outside of the on-field kit? What are your favourite things to find when shopping fashion?

My top 3 'must have' items:

    • A good novel for those times on tour when I needed to escape cricket and lose myself in some fiction
    • A good face moisturiser to replenish my skin after long days in 35 degrees on tour in Australia or India
    • My iPod to make sure I had my favourite tunes with me. iPods appeared in 2004 and I retired in 2006 so prior to that, it would have been my Sony Discman!!!

 

When I shop now, I love versatile, lovely quality clothes and want the Winser London Merino Boyfriend Jumper and Cardigan in every colour!

As Head of England's Womens Cricket what would you like to see in the future, in particular for women's sport?

For women's sport generically, I would like to see more equity, whether that be in terms of media coverage, earnings, commercial deals, airtime etc. I think it is going to take a huge culture shift to achieve this but the sooner we realise the power of sport for ALL of us, regardless of age, ability or gender, then our society will see the benefits in our levels of health, self-esteem, team work skills, leadership... I could go on and on because sport provides so much more than meets the eye. It is incredibly important that women and girls genuinely feel part of that.

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