Picture courtesy of Team England
“Wild” – is how England fast-bowl Issy Wong describes her whirlwind breakthrough year in senior international cricket.
Unsurprisingly a grin stretches almost from ear-to-ear as her list of accomplishments and ‘career firsts’ are read out to her.
They include; being selected and then opening the batting for England’s T20 side, making her test debut, attaining a first one day international (ODI) cap and competing in the first-ever Commonwealth Games to feature women’s cricket.
The 20-year-old is undoubtedly one of the sport’s rising stars and after competing for in the Hundred for Birmingham Pheonix she will join Hobart Hurricanes for her second stint in Australia’s domestic T20 competition – the Women’s Big Bash (WBBL).
The Women’s Sports Alliance (WSA) managed to catch up with Wong in a rare quiet moment during breakthrough season where she discussed her rapid rise and a surprise historic family link to her sport, which she only recently discovered.
Q – Was sport always a passion for you from a young age?
“Yeah, I was big into my sports as a kid and I played all sorts!
“It was football to start with and I’ve loved Liverpool since I was born, I got that off my dad and don’t think I had any say in the matter, ha.
“No-one in my direct family played cricket, so it was a co-incidence that I got into that via an after school club and yeah loved it, kept going, kept loving it and here 15 years later I’ve made a few international debuts in the last few months, so it just shows how far it can take you if you love what you do!”
Q – Did you always feel becoming a professional could be a realistic career option?
“I think it was always a goal and I’m really fortunate that because of my age and the way that the women’s game has grown, by the time I was old enough to realise that you needed a job as a adult to support yourself that the England women had just turned professional.
“So when I was 15-16 I was thinking that if I’m one of the best 15 players in this country then I can do this for a living and that was a great source of motivation.
“I’ve been pretty strong-minded about what I want to do since I was a kid so actually people didn’t te much convincing because I’d completely convinced myself that it’s what I wanted to do.
“Those domestic contracts came in at the right time for me. I got a call on my 18th birthday from the regional director telling me they’d like to offer me a summer retainer which was a pretty sweet birthday present, so I feel really fortunate TBH to be able to live that dream.”
Q – Your determination has certainly been rewarded this year, so come on, what’s life really like being you right now!?
“Ha, yeah it feels like one thing after another to be honest, like every couple of days something wild and exciting is happening.
“Over the last few months it’s been doing well, then ‘oh you’re going to open the batting for us in T20’ and I’m like ‘cool I’ve never done before.’ And then getting picked as a reserve for the Test squad.
“That was kind of my first or one of my first call-ups and then making it into the test squad and I’m like ‘oh I’m in my first squad, that’s cool, does that mean I’ll you play? Make my debut? Play Test cricket for England!?’ and then that was dream come true!
“I ticked that off the bucket list and it was ‘oh you’re picked in your first while ball squad’ and then to get my first ODI cap and then the Commonwealths, so it literally it feels like one thing after another.”
“I’ve spent a lot of time away from home and my cat, but I’m absolutely loving every single second of being away and representing my country. It makes all the scarifies that you have to go through to achieve your dreams all worth while.”
Q – Who were your heroes growing up and what is it like playing with stars of the sport you first watched when you were a child?
“It’s been pretty cool. Some of the guys I’ve been playing with have been my idols growing up, like Catherine (Brunt) and watching her steam in, or Anya (Shrubsole) and watching her winning the World Cup as a seamer.
“So I’ve had some pretty surreal moments and one was during my ODI debut with Charlie Dean playing.
“She’s been one of my closest mates for a number of years and there was a moment in the second over where we walked past one another grinning like idiots and we were like, ‘look at where we are, who’d have though this two years ago?’
“Sharing the field and in the international game with one of your best mates it doesn’t get better than that and I think the relationships will only grow throughout the squad.”
Q – We read online that your although cricket wasn’t something any of your immediate family played, your great uncles did many years ago?
“Yeah it was something I was completely unaware of!
“I didn’t have a clue and then one of my uncles was like ‘oh you do know that your great uncle played for Hong Kong and his great uncle.’
“So it was a nice surprise, pretty cool that it’s almost coming full circle now.”
Q – Fast bowling in women’s cricket is a real hot-topic at the moment and the strength at the top of the game. How do you feel about being right up there with the best?
“Definitely it’s only going upwards,” Wong tells the Women’s Sports Alliance (WSA).
“I was asked recently if I thought there’d been a change in the women’s game recently and I thought no, the women’s game has only been going one way for a few years and actually it’s just accelerating at a number of knots.
“People are bowling quicker, they’re turning the ball more and batters are hitting some massive sixes which isn’t nice to be on the end of sometimes but it’s exciting to see the game moving forward.
“It’s a super exciting time to be 20-years-old, loving cricket, playing cricket!”