The young cricket star, Issy Wong, talks the thrill of the Hundred, equality in the game and future goals
Talented teen Issy Wong is relishing playing for Birmingham Phoenix in cricket’s explosive new tournament, the Hundred. Packed crowds, live entertainment and incredible sport have provided a joyful summer of cricket bringing it to new audiences and thrilling existing fans.
Issy’s strength is pace bowling and she’s striving to push 80mph – the women’s record is 77.6mph, but she’s pretty nifty with the bat too. As we write, she’s clocking up 27 not out off 11 balls in an impressive innings that’s left commentators concluding there’s a case for moving her up the batting order. Teetering on the edge of an international call up, Issy’s performances are giving selectors a lot of reasons to give her a shot.
As well as the excitement of the new tournament, there’s a bigger message. The format of the competition is boosting the visibility of the women’s game. Men’s and women’s teams play back- to-back, all televised and given equal billing. There’s no distinction. While there’s no question the women’s game has been thriving over the last few years, crowds still aren’t on a par with the men’s game and the Hundred might just change that.
Of the success of the tournament, Issy says: “The atmosphere is amazing and something that even the international girls are not really used to. There’s never a better time to be in the women’s game. It’s exciting.” What is it about cricket that Issy loves? She says: “I love the unpredictability of cricket. In the short format particularly, one or two balls can change an innings. A couple of quick wickets can transform the game.”
Issy remembers being super competitive even as a small child. In the playground she always wanted to be hitting the ball the hardest or throwing it the furthest. Whatever the sport, she wanted to win. An after-school club was Issy’s first taste of cricket which she took to straight away. She progressed to local club level and aged nine was encouraged to trial for Warwickshire, playing county level from then on.
As well as county, she’s enjoyed success regionally and nationally for teams including Southern Vipers and Central Sparks. Issy found out about her Central Sparks contract on her eighteenth birthday which meant she left school and was a professional cricketer. Not a bad present!
When Issy’s not playing cricket, she’s watching football in the flesh or on TV and in particular her beloved Liverpool. It’s a family thing which she was introduced to at just six-months-old wrapped up in the stands. Cricket has meant she’s missed two Champions League finals which her family have travelled to.
The Commonwealth Games in Issy’s home-town would be quite a moment to be involved in. She says: “The Commonwealth Games is a massive thing for Birmingham not just for sport, but for the city. The facilities are world class. Edgbaston is an iconic cricket ground and Alexander Stadium, there are great football teams and grounds. It’s fantastically diverse, really exciting.” Issy’s ultimate ambition is to win the World Cup. “That would be awesome.”