Sports journalist @Journo_K
“I would love to be the No 1 spinner in the world in the next few years, that is my ultimate aim.”
Last Updated: 07/03/19 9:17pm
In a little under a year, Sophie Ecclestone has gone from a young budding prospect to England Women’s No 1 spinner and a game changer.
The teenager went from being a spectator, watching her idols from the stands, to being in the same dressing room with them at the age of just 17.
It was a daunting prospect for the spinner, coming from Cheshire to England’s National Performance Centre in Loughborough and coming face-to-face with then captain Charlotte Edwards.
“It was quite weird,” Ecclestone told Sky Sports Cricket. “The first time I came, Charlotte Edwards was there, Laura Marsh and Katherine Brunt too.
“Brunt was my hero when I was younger and being in a room with all of them, actually talking to them and thinking I’m going to be playing cricket with them, was surreal.
“I have told Katherine a few times that I got her autograph in 2008 when I was nine, although I don’t think she was too pleased that I told her!
“That first day I was too scared to go up to her or go to lunch with any of them, I was so scared to see them all in person but they were all so nice and welcoming.
“It is quite nice to know that Katherine is like a big sister to me now and I’m not just a fan of hers. I never knew this was going to happen and my full-time job was going to be as a cricketer. I have to pinch myself sometimes, that I have done very well and I have got the best life.”
Ecclestone pulled on an England shirt for the first time in 2016 against Pakistan in a T20I before playing two one-day internationals against Windies but then had a long wait to return to the international scene, missing out on selection for the 50-over World Cup while she completed her studies.
However, she grabbed her second chance with both hands – her temperament and consistency impressing head coach Mark Robinson during the Women’s Ashes in Australia in late 2017.
In India four months later the leg-spinner staked her claim to be England’s front-line spinner in testing conditions on the subcontinent, picking up eight wickets across three ODIs – outshining World Cup-winning spinner Alex Hartley in the process.
Ecclestone thrived on the added pressure and importance placed on her by Robinson and captain Heather Knight and was named the ICC’s Emerging Player of the Year – having claimed 35 wickets in 23 limited-overs matches during a sparkling 2018.
Despite her success, the Lancashire Lightning player’s feet remain firmly on the ground.
“It is quite surreal being called England’s No 1 spinner,” Ecclestone said. “Especially with players like Laura Marsh, who has played so long for England, around the team.
“I have looked up to these players and watched them play for England when I have been in the stands, it’s nice to have them around me and for me to be able to go to them for advice.
“If Heather calls on me, I love pressure situations. Becoming the No 1 spinner has come through hard work and consistently bowling my best ball over and over again.
“My arm ball is a big part of my game and my variations but ijust working hard and keeping it consistent is a big part of it, so the batters make mistakes and not me.
“I feel like some players have plans to me now, there are a few games where I have felt they have changed something. It is always a challenge, so if you get them out it is even more of an achievement.”
Ecclestone was forced to return home early from England’s overseas tour to India and Sri Lanka after fracturing the fifth metacarpal on her right hand.
It is a minor setback ahead of a big 12 months in which the spinner hopes to play in her first Ashes on home soil before travelling to Australia for the Women’s T20 World Cup in early 2020.
After tasting much success in her nascent career, Ecclestone has her sights set even higher for the future.
“I would love to be the No 1 spinner in the world in the next few years,” she said. “That is my ultimate aim. I just want to keep working hard for the next year and if I do then hopefully I will get the results I want.
“It is a really big year for us all as a team and I am really excited to play in my first Ashes on home soil. I’m looking forward to the challenges this summer and at next year’s T20 World Cup as well.”