Katherine Brunt, England’s passionate opening bowler, never set out play to play cricket.
Not seriously at least. ‘I never saw cricket as a long-term career,’ says Brunt.‘I never wanted to play for England. I was a bit of an odd-ball growing up. I was bullied at school and my get-out was to join the cricket team. Somehow that’s where I fitted in and I became one of the guys.’
‘As I grew into my teens I got bigger, I started developing. Some people grow out of that growing stage, some people don’t. Unfortunately for me I didn’t — I just got really fat.’
It’s hard to imagine Brunt who, in a recent England photo-shoot is standing at the front, tensing her pronounced biceps, as anything but a finely toned athlete.
‘Being fat was part of why I got bullied — no, mainly, why. That’s why I started playing with the boys at school.
‘I got this new-found respect as I was accepted into the team and that’s what really sparked my passion for it.’
Earlier this month Andrew Flintoff, who also struggled with weight issues during his career, spoke on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs about how growing up and attending a rough state school had stood him in good stead to face the likes of Australia on the international stage.
Brunt’s tale is similar. ‘I would 100 per cent back that up. It just exposes you to everything and anything. You go through a lot at those ages and I know for me personally I went through some really tough times.
‘You learn how to grow up fast, be independent and to be tough — you just had to ‘man up’ from an early age. When I lost four stone, it was all by myself.’
It wasn’t cricket that triggered the weight loss, but the weight loss did trigger her cricket.
‘I’d just had enough, really. It was just a serious amount of self-loathing — sick of not being happy with who I was because of who I looked like.
‘It just made me very introverted and very shy. I tell the girls in the England team that I used to be an introvert and they just laugh in my face.’
After being driven away from the game at 16 by that discomfort with her weight and difficulties with team-mates, she returned to Yorkshire a year later and within six months a newly determined Brunt had broken into the England team.
Her rise has been fast. With the multi-format Ashes series level at 1-1, the final one day international taking place at Worcester.
Brunt, with 135 international caps to her name and spearheading the England bowling attack, will be looking for a repeat of Tuesday’s first ODI where she picked up three wickets for 48.
Will there be a few words exchanged today on the pitch? ‘There’s no love lost,’ said Brunt.
‘There will be tears, there will be confrontations, but at the end of the day every individual will give absolutely everything they’ve got.’ Australia, you’ve been warned.