Cricket interview

Linsey Smith, Southern Vipers, Sussex Spinner

Our interviewee this month is one of the rising stars of women’s cricket. At just 22 years of age left-arm spinner Linsey Smith has already appeared in two Kia Super League finals and following her selection in the England Pathway squad she is already knocking on the door of the full England side.

“One of my aims in 2018 is to push on and give the spinners in the full England side a run for their money. You have always got to back yourself and if I can do well with the Southern Vipers again this year, the opportunity might come.”

Linsey started her career by turning her arm over at her local club Aston Rowant CC and enjoyed nothing more than sending the boys back to the pavilion. “I’d grown up in a cricket family. When I was 7 we moved to Oxfordshire and my Dad and brother started playing cricket at Aston Rowant, so I thought I would as well! The club had a small girls’ set-up but they fast tracked me into playing for the boys, which was quite cool, albeit a bit scary. There was always good chat when you’re bowling at the men, our wicket-keeper would always helpfully be telling batsmen not to get out to a girl!”

Playing boys/mens cricket is a familiar journey taken by many in the women’s game, it was certainly a path trodden by our previous interviewees: Charlotte Edwards and Danni Wyatt.

Linsey’s early success saw her represent Oxfordshire in age group cricket, but she realised if she wanted to continue her development she’d need to make a move to test herself at a higher level and so came about a move to Berkshire, who despite being a minor county, competed in division one of the women’s county set-up (there are 4 divisions in total).

“I enjoyed playing for Oxfordshire, but I wanted to push myself and made the decision to play for Berkshire who at the time were in division 1. To develop I felt I needed to be playing in an environment where all of the top England and county players were playing.”

Linsey’s performances for Berkshire saw her called up into the Southern Vipers’ squad for the inaugural season of the KIA Super League, the women’s franchise T20 cricket series.

What made this rapid rise even more remarkable for Linsey was the fact that in 2015 she swapped from bowling seam to spin due to an injury.

And the move was a dream come true for Linsey. Growing up, Charlotte Edwards was a hero to Linsey, so to get the opportunity to play with one of the greats of the women’s game was a dream come true. “I always looked up to Charlotte Edwards. I always remember when she came into my secondary school and did a session with us; it was the moment I knew I really wanted to pursue cricket. She was a big character when I was growing up; so, it was pretty amazing to get to play with this extremely experienced cricketer. In the two years I have worked with her she has shared a lot of knowledge and really helped me develop my game.”

Linsey had to bide her time in that first season with the Vipers, but an injury to a team mate saw her called up for the team’s second fixture against Lancashire Thunder. Having taken 1-15 from her 4 overs, Linsey kept her place in the side for the next game against the Yorkshire Diamonds. It was a wise decision as Linsey’s 4-10 from her 4 overs, set them on the road to victory and for Linsey it was proof that she belonged at this level.

The Vipers went on to win that first competition, beating the Western Storm at Chelmsford. “Finals day was amazing. For a number of the team it was the first time a number of us had ever experienced anything like that and to play in front of a big crowd was great.”

At the end of that 2016 season, Linsey moved from Berkshire to Sussex to further aide her development. “I wanted to join a side that were pushing for titles and I knew that Sussex would be a good environment for me to learn and develop. I probably shot myself in the foot though as both Berkshire and Sussex got relegated! But, hopefully we’ll fight back this summer and be back in division 1 next year.”

Despite the relegation at Sussex, Linsey continued to impress with the Vipers. The side went on to reach the final for the second successive year, but this year the Storm got their revenge and defeated the Vipers in the final. But I asked Linsey about the impact the women’s World Cup win had had on last year’s competition.

“I was lucky enough to be at Lords and to see the ground sold out for a women’s game was amazing and the reaction when England won had never been seen before. It totally changed the women’s game and people’s perceptions of it. The first year of the Super League people didn’t really know what to expect, but the crowds we got at the Ageas Bowl were amazing. In the second year however, after the World Cup, it grew and grew and to see that many people turn up for games was fantastic. I think it will grow even more this year, especially now Sky Sports will be covering more games. You also look at the women’s Big Bash, the game is getting bigger and bigger around the world. It’s fantastic for all the girls playing.”

Linsey’s performances for the Vipers has put her on the radar of the England selectors. “Last year I was lucky enough to be selected to go to Abu Dhabi with the full squad, they took five academy players over, which was really positive, and I learnt a lot from it.”

Her selection for the England Pathway squad, which is the equivalent to the men’s England Lions has aided her development further. “Last year the academy team joined a county boys league to get us used to playing as a team. We won that league, so we’re moving up a level this coming season, which will be another test for us.”

Looking ahead to this coming summer, I asked Linsey what her goals and ambitions were. “I am hoping to keep my place in the senior academy squad and perform well for the Southern Vipers and as I say give the spinners in the senior England side something to think about.”

The women’s game is primarily built around 50 over and T20 cricket, I asked Linsey about the pressures of being spinner, particularly in the shorter format of the game, where spinners only get 4 overs to turn their arm over. “T20 is very pressurised, but anyone who knows me, knows that I am quite a fiery character and I never say no to a challenge! I took the new ball for the Vipers last season in the Powerplay, which was daunting, but you have to back yourself and take on the challenge. T20 is my sort of game. I love it!”

As the interview went on I realised I had not asked Linsey about her batting. How had she got on with the bat in two seasons of T20 cricket? “Well… can you believe I’ve never had to get the pads on yet!” Yes, in two seasons of T20 cricket, Linsey has yet to face a ball with a bat! But she promises me she is working hard in the nets on her batting as she recognises the importance of batting and fielding and not being a one-dimensional cricketer.

We finished our conversation with Linsey naming the best player she’d bowled to? “Stafanie Taylor of the West Indies. She is pretty special. I remember bowling to her and having to look at myself and the way I was bowling. You realise you have to change things at times, or players like her will completely demolish you. She’s a very impressive batter.”

So, as you watch women’s cricket this summer, look out for the name Linsey Smith and remember you read about her here first!

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