Katie McGill, a regular feature in the Scotland Women’s cricket team made her international T20 debut in 2018 in the T20 World Cup Qualifier tournament. No cricket background initially but with the help of her university in Edinburgh, Katie took up professional cricket. Having played cricket in England, Scotland, New Zealand and for Global Development Squad, Katie has a diverse experience and she shares some of those learnings with us on this chat.
Excerpts from the interview:
1. You were born and brought up in England, so how was it moving from England to Scotland?
It’s hard to say as it has been more of a gradual rooting than a big move. Initially I came up to Scotland & Edinburgh for university so at the time I hadn’t planned for it to be permanent, and performance cricket wasn’t on my agenda. I ended up really settling in and enjoying life up here so I never moved back.
2. With no cricketing background in the family, what made you take up cricket?
I was part of a small girls cricket group at primary school. There were only about 3 of us and I don’t remember how or why I joined, but I loved it. As I grew up, I played any sport going. Cricket was never the most serious but I kept coming back to it and I’ve always enjoyed the technical and tactical side, as well as being part of a team.
3. Tell us about your early days in cricket.
The club at primary school (<11 yrs old) kick-started things with organised coaching. As I turned 11, family circumstances meant we had to move and I fell away from that cricketing opportunity. Through the early part of secondary school, I joined in with the boys cricket training after school but I wasn’t allowed to join during school time or play fixtures against other schools and I had to prioritise “girls” sports. (Things quickly changed; the school now has a full girls’ cricket program and look to be doing great things, I was just a bit too early.)
Despite great support from the staff that helped me along, not being able to get fully involved meant I drifted away from cricket for a few years until the hockey teacher mentioned that her husband’s cricket club was starting a women’s team which lead to me joining the Lady Llamas at Reigate Priory CC. I continued to play my cricket at Llama land (with a very social focus) until I moved more permanently to Edinburgh. It was opportunity through Edinburgh University Cricket Club (EUCC) and expanding my own coaching experience that led me towards performance cricket.
4. Did you always want to become a fast bowler?
Not knowingly. I love all parts of cricket and would get involved in every aspect as much as I could. When I was playing with the boys, I bowled (terrible) off-spin because I couldn’t keep up with their pace and sometimes I’d even get put in to keep wicket if none of them wanted to. My bowling always developed ahead of batting and I always got some seam & swing so it naturally became my main role as I got into more structured training. I wouldn’t credit myself as fast even now though 😉
5. What does it take to be a good fast bowler?
I think knowing the skills you have and what you want to achieve with each ball is really important. Especially in the women’s game where very few people can rely on pure pace to upset batters, having your tactics on point is how you can get ahead of the game. Then, it’s about relaxing and enjoying it!
6. Who is your role model?
Not necessarily a role model, but Freddie Flintoff definitely inspired me and drew me into cricket. On a wider scale, I couldn’t pinpoint a single role model but I really value people who display integrity and take on challenges with grit and hard work. Katherine Grainger is someone I’ve often looked to as she also balanced academia with her sporting career and comes across incredible down to earth and determined.
7. You made your debut for Scotland in July 2018. How was that feeling?
It was a complete surprise. I had only joined the training squad towards the end of that winter and had never really thought that’s where I would end up, definitely not so soon. I’m not normally great at filing away memories to the correct game/time, but I remember having a strong batting partnership with Ruth Willis. She’s one of my closest friends and we’ve shared a lot of cricket experiences for years before so that was pretty special. I also got totally swept up with what playing at that level meant. I loved the step up in competitiveness, commitment and team bond that comes at that level and now I wanted to work to stay involved and offer more to this team. Plus…the sun shone, so a winning day all-round.
8. You are one of the opening bowlers for Scotland. How is it bowling in the powerplay?
It’s a role that has definitely changed through my playing career with batters becoming more aggressive earlier on in the game – for T20 and 50 over games. Having only two fielders out is challenging but I find it can help distill the plans I want to bowl to and give clarity. It’s also a great opportunity to help set the tone for the team for the rest of the innings and it is always nice to get the chance to exploit the movement of a new ball.
9. In October 2019, you were named in the Women’s Global Development Squad (WGDS) which included players from eight countries, how was that feeling?
It was one of total excitement. I’d seen how much teammates had enjoyed and grown from previous editions so couldn’t wait to get involved. It’s such a unique chance to play and travel with women we normally only see on as opposition who have all had such different journeys.
10. How was it to play under the Pakistan skipper Bismah Maroof?
Bismah was a great leader. She brought a team of strangers together so well. Her knowledge of the game combined with her kind approach inspired confidence and made you want to work with her and perform well for the team. It was brilliant to learn from someone whose game has developed around the world in conditions so different from what we get in Scotland and England. She explained everything calmly and clearly so it was easy to absorb a lot from her, and she was great company off the pitch too.
11. How did you all get along as a team considering you were from different parts of the world?
Insanely well! There was a great balance of personalities from the quiet nurturing to the pure entertainment that meant we all slotted into a unit almost instantly and people came into their own as they felt ready. On the pitch, Sean, Peter (coaches) and Joanne (mentor) set the tone early that the tour was about playing with freedom. The whole team got fully on board so we could explore our cricket and try different things, with full experience from the group.
12. While playing against the WBBL teams, what was the key learning?
We saw moments where we really competed – people took wickets, bowled with control and got runs. The main difference was confidence in our options and subsequently execution of our skills. It’s reassuring and motivating to see that the fundamentals are there, it’s just about how we apply them that will help us improve. Personally, I was going through a tough patch with my cricket so , although I didn’t perform as I would have liked, having that change of challenge was refreshing and I have taken a lot from reflecting with Jo around those games that have really helped me since returning home.
13. You also play for New Zealand’s Northern Spirit domestic team. How has that experience been?
I had a lot of fun with the Spirit. I found the NZ conditions really suited my bowling and helped me find something extra in my action so getting to test them out through that domestic tournament was invaluable. Getting involved with the Spirit escalated from nowhere. I’d headed to NZ for a break before starting a PhD so I’d just been looking to play club cricket and do a bit of coaching. The unexpected element adds a bit more to the experience. To top it off, the team was a class bunch off the pitch – we had such a laugh and I’ve held on to those times since. The team made me feel like I’d be one of them for a good time to come and I still support the pink from home.
14. Now that you have already played cricket for different teams in England, Scotland, New Zealand as well as Women’s Global Development Squad, how do you think each of the teams are different?
I’ve been lucky to play with teams that have had really contrasting personalities, priorities and strengths. Most the teams I’ve been part of would have put bowling as their stronger suit. I saw a very different approach to the game with the Spirit who, at that time, led with their batting. It changed the balance of the role I played as an opening bowler and let me grow a lot as a cricketer. Going back the to the Llamas always gives perspective and helps me refresh. In that group, the time in the clubhouse after the game is as important as the game itself.
The common theme has been that groups who play for each other and the team beyond themselves can get success, even if they only met a week before (WGDS).
15. You have already featured in 20 T20I for Scotland, how do you see yourself growing as a cricketer?
There is still a lot of scope for me to refine my skills. Over the past few years, I feel like I’ve got a grounded understanding of my game that’s allowed me to develop some good plans and better know when to implement various options. However, I’m always working to improve the consistency and accuracy of execution and there are always a couple of variations and skills options I’m tinkering with, in batting and bowling. Hopefully as my experiences build, with things like the WGDS and Spirit stints adding to them, I can offer more to the team beyond my own performances in supporting teammates in their cricket.
16. Which is the one batter (current/retired) that you would love to bowl to?
Sophie Devine. She’s got the better of me a couple of times, but I never know when to stop and love to graft at a challenge.
17. Which batter do you dread bowling to?
Sophie Devine. I’ve come up against her a couple of times during my time with the Spirit & WGDS. She’s got so much power across a wide arc of the ground. You have to be one step ahead of the game and have no margin for error. Unfortunately, I didn’t execute my skills on either occasion and the ball had to be collected from a long, long way over the rope more than once.
18. You have graduated with a Masters in Engineering and are looking to take up a Ph.D. researching head-impacts in sport, how are you managing cricket and academics?
There have been some challenges in striking the balance at times. I had to delay some Masters exams because we were playing a T20 qualifier when I was due to sit them and I’ve completed and submitted coursework while on tour.
With time, I’ve learned that fitting the cricket around studying is manageable but fitting work around cricket when away with the team is not. I plan work loads around our fixture list as far as possible.
My PhD research is numerical so I often prepare a batch of simulations to run while I’m away playing cricket, then I process the results one we get back. I’m also lucky to have an incredibly supportive network at the university who are fully behind me pursuing cricket and have helped facilitate things like interrupting my PhD progress/funding so I can commit to playing series and tournaments for Scotland.
19. What is your message to the young and budding women cricketers in Scotland?
There is a great community around cricket in Scotland so you can really get involved. First and foremost, enjoy what you do, then be bold – go for the shot or bowl the ball you’ve worked hard on in nets.
It will feel amazing if it comes off. Finally, appreciate the team around you. So much of cricket can feel individual but it’s the 10 you share the field with, and all those on the sidelines that make it fun and make it work,
Loves all things female cricket