England and Warwickshire cricket star Amy Jones is jumping at the chance to compete at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in 2022. She tells David Johns that as well as winning gold, she hopes to inspire even more girls to take up the sport
A dream come true is how Amy Jones describes the prospect of competing in her home Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022. The talented cricketer will be a key member of the successful England team which is among the favourites as women’s T20 cricket becomes part of the Games for the first time.
“With how things have been in the pandemic, I think the Games are a real light at the end of the tunnel and something for everyone to look forward to,” said Amy. “It’s a brilliant opportunity for the city – all eyes will be on Birmingham and I’m proud to be from Birmingham and having such a global event coming home.”
Amy grew up in Sutton Coldfield and has more than 90 international caps for England as well as playing county cricket for Warwickshire. She is one of the stars of the Birmingham 2022 promotional campaign – celebrating elite athletes with a link to the West Midlands – and is appearing on billboards across the region as the build-up to Games continues to ratchet up.
FACE OF 2022
Amy says it is an honour to be one of the faces of 2022. “It’s incredible, seeing myself on the billboards and with my family walking past and seeing it too. It’s definitely a bit crazy to be honest but it’s something I’m hugely proud of and I feel very lucky to be one of the athletes that’s up there. It’s definitely something that I’ll not forget.”
The Birmingham 2022 cricket competition will be held at Warwickshire’s Edgbaston home and wicketkeeper batter Amy says that will make the competition even more special. “I first started playing for Warwickshire at under 13 level, so it was really where I learned how to play cricket. It’s definitely a special place for me personally. I’ve only been able to play out on the main pitch a handful of times, so just to be able to play out there is one thing, but to represent England out there will be unbelievable, and I’m sure the support we’ll get there will be great as well.
“Every athlete wants to inspire and the more people that can see us and see what we do and see how much fun we have when we’re out there, if that comes across to young girls maybe watching cricket for the first time, I think that is hugely important.”
Amy’s path to becoming a professional cricketer began as a youngster playing football. “I played on a boys’ football team,” she explains. “Some of my mates played cricket at the local club and I went down there. They had a girls’ team and a successful ladies’ team which wasn’t common at the time. So, I was lucky and it was quite straightforward. They had good links with Warwickshire and I had a trial at Edgbaston at 13 and I went on from there.
“I was part of the first batch of professional England contracts when I was 19 and the growth of competition and raised profile in the women’s game has meant the standard of play has improved all the time. The growth in TV coverage has also been huge for the women’s game. Loads of people will enjoy women’s sport but if they don’t get to see it, then they don’t know how good it is.”
Amy is a member of an England team that is among the world’s top cricket nations. When we spoke she had just returned from a winning tour to New Zealand and was preparing for the new domestic cricket season before visits by India and a return series with the Kiwis. She said: “Being away on tour during the pandemic was a bit scary at times – knowing that my mum and dad are getting older and having to stay indoors and me being away from them. It’s hard as an athlete or anyone when you are working away. You have the benefit of visiting some amazing countries but especially at this time, the other side of it is knowing your family are still staying safe at home.”
The current world’s top eight women’s T20 cricket nation, which include hosts England, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Pakistan, are eligible to compete at the 2022 Games. There’s no doubt in Amy’s mind who the greatest rivals for the gold medals are. “Australia are always our biggest competition and have a very successful team,” she said. “Much like the men’s teams, there is great rivalry. Maybe not as fierce as the men and not with the same level of sledging, but it’s still ultra-competitive. It’s not my style to sledge people, I just want to do everything I can to make sure we win matches.”
Over the coming months, Amy says the most important thing is to maintain her form and avoid injuries. “Within the squad I see myself now as a senior player with more responsibility than in the past. I want to contribute to our wins and put in match-winning performances. There will hopefully be lots of opportunities to do that on big stages over the coming months and years in front of lots of people.”