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Covid News 2024


England bowler Bell says a new fund will encourage more girls to pick up a cricket ball

MANCHESTER, England: Lauren Bell had no female role models in cricket growing up, so the England bowler gets a kick out of the young female fans she meets who tell her they plan to wear their hair in braids just like her does that on match days.

Building on the success of last year’s record-breaking Ashes series, Metro Bank and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have teamed up to launch a fund that Bell said will help grow the girls’ game.

The Metro Bank Girls in Cricket Fund will focus on recruiting, training and supporting people working in girls’ cricket, with the aim of tripling the number of girls’ teams at clubs by the end of 2026.

“When I was younger, I was asked, ‘Oh, who’s your role model? Who did you see playing cricket?’ I didn’t have a woman where I thought, ‘I want to be just like her when I’m older,'” Bell said in an interview with Reuters.

“It’s getting a lot better and for us as an England team our main aim is to inspire, entertain and be role models. The more girls can see us and say ‘I want to be just like them’, the more people, I think.” will participate.”

Bell said she has seen a huge growth in the visibility of women’s football since the 2022 World Cup, where England finished second, and last year’s Women’s Ashes in England, where a record 94,000 tickets were sold, almost triple the total visitors of 32,000 for the 2019 match. series.

“There are moments that stick with me,” Bell said. “I was playing in the World Cup and met a girl who wanted braids, or a mother said, ‘I’ve had to braid my daughter’s hair every day since you started braiding your hair,’ that kind of thing.

“You obviously don’t realize it (the impact) and then you meet these girls, it’s fun. We have a pretty big influence and obviously we’re just trying to grow it.”

Although no financial figures were available, commitment to the new fund will continue until 2028, with the first three years dedicated to coaches and volunteers. This is based on recent research from Women in Sport, which found that one of the biggest barriers to girls’ participation is the lack of female coaches.

“Obviously a lot of club cricket coaches are male and I think if you’re a girl just starting out and you have a female coach you would feel more comfortable,” Bell said.

Bell – whose nickname is The Shard because of her height of 6ft 4in – grew up playing both football and cricket, largely with boys. She was the first girl to play for Bradfield College’s first 11 at the age of 14.

She played football for Reading academy until she was 16, when her parents asked her to choose one sport or the other, and she chose cricket.

“I was friends with all the boys so playing with boys really didn’t bother me,” Bell said from Birmingham, where the England women are training ahead of the T20 and ODI series against Pakistan, with the first T20 on Saturday. “But I see girls, and they probably don’t want to play because it’s with boys, and who would play if they could play with girls.”

Bell, who made her England debut in June 2022, suggests girls or their parents interested in cricket contact a nearby club.

“Ask any girl in this England team and they have a home club they still return to, just like their extended family,” Bell said. “So find a girls’ team and maybe go with a friend, if that makes it less nerve-wracking. That’s clearly what this initiative is about: creating more girls’ teams.”