From watching the England team lift the World Cup 2017 as a spectator to now being their most potent weapon heading into the World Cup 2022, Sophie Ecclestone has come a long way.
With 746 rating points to her credit, she is just 16 points behind Australia's Jess Jonassen in the ICC ODI bowling rankings and sits at the crest of the T20I bowling rankings with 761 rating points. These numbers clearly delineate the ripple effect that her overwhelming performances have caused lately and are a testament to her growth in stature.
In an era where finger spinners are clobbered by batters and cashed in on whenever introduced into the attack, Ecclestone's unflinching determination makes her indomitable.
So what exactly sets her apart from the other spinners in the game. Firstly, her ability to vary her pace and trajectory is second to none. And secondly, the amount of revs she applies on her stock delivery and the dip she gets on it bamboozles batters and makes them question their competency.
In a riveting chat with Women's CricZone, Ecclestone talked about the upcoming ODI World Cup, life inside the bubble, her growth as a player, her go-to player in tense situations and a lot more.
Q: You are going to play your first 50-overs World Cup. How excited are you about it?
Yeah, I am really excited. It's amazing. The girls obviously won it five years ago, and I was in the crowd watching, so it's gonna be great to be able to play this time, and hopefully, we can win again.
Q: The scenario has changed due to COVID-19. Players now stay away from their partners, away from their families. How much does that affect a player? And how difficult is it to concentrate on the game just inside the bubble life?
Yeah, it's not ideal being without the family when I am away. For the next three months, I am away, not gonna see my family. It's not ideal, but it's what you do as a job. But there will be a tour sooner rather than later, hopefully in the next year or so when they (family) can come (on the tours) too.
Q: How difficult it is basically to travel from one bubble to another?
It's obviously not great to go from bubble to bubble. It's not a lifestyle you choose at all, but obviously, sometimes I just got to do it to be able to play cricket for my country. I've got a few of my best mates in the squad, so that's quite nice. We try to spend some time together and keep each other up and in good spirits before our games.
Q: You are heading into the World Cup as defending champions. Sophie Ecclestone has probably become the first player on the team sheet now. From not playing for England five years ago to being the first member on the team sheet. How has the feeling evolved?
There's a lot of hard work that goes into being like that. I work hard off the pitch and on myself, and it's just things like the gym and fitness and not just cricket skills that you need to practice. I think it's just working hard off the field to make sure you are the first one, hopefully, to get on the team sheet.
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Q: How does it feel like to be one of the youngest in the team?
I am still one of the youngsters in the team. There's Dean (Charlie), who is a bit younger than me, then Glenny (Sarah Glenn) and I are the same age, and Mady (Villiers) is just a year older than me. So there are a few young ones in the squad, and it's quite nice for me to have a group of young people. It's great to be alongside some of them and people of the same age as me.
Q: How was it playing in the one-off Test against India at Bristol last year. You bowled 64 overs in total. How did the body take it?
Well, it was 64 overs in two days because obviously, we followed on, so it was even worse, but I wasn't expecting it, to be honest. As a spinner going into that game with Heather (Knight) being the other off-spinner (right arm) in the team was an amazing experience. I love Test cricket when we get to play it, so it was really great to be able to bowl that much in the game, but I think that's what the team needed from me, so I was happy enough to pull up that many overs.
Q: How did you feel playing in the inaugural edition of the Hundred? A brand new format with a different set of rules.
We had a few days off between the series that we just played (India tour of England 2021) and the Hundred. I remember going to Kate Cross and being like I haven't read the rules sheet, just the night before our first game. So I had to quickly read the rules, and I was like I don't know what's going on. So I think the first game was really interesting just to try and get the rules right. It was all a bit mad, but it was a great format for everyone.
Q: How much do you think your height is going to help you as a spinner in New Zealand?
I hope we get a few bouncy wickets. That would help me out a lot. I just turn up to a cricket game, and whatever wicket there is, I just try and do my best on it and try to adapt as quickly as possible. I love being in New Zealand, and it was great when we went there last time, so hopefully, we can do well again.
Q: Do you have any regrets about missing out on the 2017 World Cup?
If it were my choice, I would have been up for selection. But my mum and dad said no, so I think it was all school work for them but looking back now I am really glad that I've got my schoolwork done now and it's all sorted. I can just keep playing now and enjoy my cricket.
Q: Who do you consider as your go-to option when you are on the field to discuss a bit more on your bowling strategies and everything that's going around?
Heather, I think she's a great captain for me. We get on really well, and I think she knows how I work, and I think she knows how is she expected to speak to me when I get frustrated. It's great to have that relationship with her. She's a spinner herself and a great batter, so it's great to just talk things through with her from a different perspective.
Q: Congratulations on your engagement. How much do you think having a partner helps in terms of performance on the field?
Thank you. It's great to have him (Craig Hitchmough) around. He doesn't really get cricket, so it's great for me and great for my personality that when I get home from cricket, he doesn't talk about it at all. But when he is with me on tour, he is a great distraction to what's actually going on. But it's just really nice to have him around and to have that support.
Q: Is Australia on your radar as far as the World Cup is concerned?
Yeah, Australia are one of the best teams in the world, and I think everyone knows that. They are definitely the team to beat.