Cricket

Women’s World Cup: England’s Katherine Brunt on pain, retirement and Muse

Women's World Cup: England's Katherine Brunt on pain, retirement and Muse

Katherine Brunt is about to play her fifth World Cup
Hosts: New Zealand (six sites) Appointment: March 4 – April 3
BBC coverage: Test Match Special commentary and live text on selected games on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra & BBC Sounds; video highlights on the BBC Sport website and app

Katherine Brunt’s career in England was almost over before she started because she wanted to see Muse and Kings of Leon at the V Festival.

“My sister Rachel managed to sort through the tickets and I was really excited about them,” she told BBC Sport. “I almost passed up the offer to play for England because of that. It sounds pretty silly now, but back then I was dead serious.”

It was August 2004. Brunt, 19, was terribly shy and had been put off by a trial she didn’t like. When captain Clare Connor asked him to play in a test against New Zealand, Brunt had to be convinced by Rachel.

“I never aspired to play for England,” she explains. “I thought this level was a little too scary for someone as shy as me. It was huge and I considered it nothing, until my sister hit me in the back of the head and explains to me what I was refusing.

“She convinced me that I was making a huge mistake, that I would always regret it, and if I didn’t like it, she would pick me up to take me home. Reluctantly, I said yes, and that’s it. was the best decision I made.” never did.”

More than 17 years later Brunt, now 36, has still not seen Muse and Kings of Leon play live, but she has more international wickets than any other woman to play for England. She has won three Ashes series and the T20 World Cup. She is entering her fifth 50+ World Cup and is looking to lift the trophy for the third time.

She credits her longevity to her determination and “good surgeries” on a body destroyed by nearly two decades of trampling for a quick bowl.

“Every day I wake up and it’s a mystery what I’m going to feel,” says Brunt.

“I’ve had plantar fasciitis for almost two years. It will make your teeth cringe because it’s awful, shooting pain in your heel when you walk. It’s worse in the morning when you get up.

“My feet have hurt every day for two years. I’m hesitant to put my feet down because I know what’s going to happen.”

James Anderson, who had an almost parallel career as England’s all-time leading wicket-taker, says his shoulder hurts when he brushes his teeth. For Brunt, it was his back that took the beating.

“Jimmy has a nice one if it’s just brushing his teeth,” she says. “Mine puts on my underwear – you have to bend over more for that.

“I wonder how I will feel when I quit. Will it happen for the rest of my life? What state will I be in? It’s always a worry.”

It’s not uncommon for Brunt to need help from her teammates to get dressed. While now it’s his fiancée Nat Sciver, the weakening can be traced back to the aid of former wicketkeeper Jane Smit, who hasn’t played for England in 14 years.

“That’s how long I’ve been dealing with this,” Brunt says. “If that can’t stop me, literally nothing else can.”

Brunt admits Sciver helped prolong her career, but also speaks movingly about how the relationship changed her as a person.

Brunt was raised in a strict Christian household and in a recent episode of the No Balls podcast she revealed a struggle with ingrained feelings of homophobia, despite being engaged to another woman.

“I grew up thinking that being gay is wrong, disgusting and shameful,” she explains.

“When I started playing county cricket the only thing I really struggled with was being in dressing rooms with people who were that way inclined.

“I hated it. I didn’t want to be there at all.

“It was a big secret. Stay in your box, keep your head down, do what you’re told and work hard. Nobody needs to know, because you’re supposed to be ashamed of it.”

Early in Brunt’s career, it was “inconceivable” to her that a high-profile same-sex couple could be so public about their relationship.

Although, in Brunt’s words, “the difference between yesterday and today is ridiculous,” it still took immeasurable courage to admit his fight against homophobia. His honesty was met with an overwhelmingly positive response.

“I get emotional thinking about it, because it triggers the feelings that you’ve held onto for decades,” she says.

“If I can talk about it – which is still very difficult – and help one person, it’s worth it.”

Still, there remains a rift in Brunt’s family.

“Nat doesn’t exist for my mother,” she says.

“She will never be able to have a relationship with my parents. If I have children, they will never meet them.

“I always wanted to avoid those things. Why would I want people to look at me weirdly because I’m holding Nat’s hand?

“I’m really happy now. I feel comfortable, safe and secure. I want everyone to experience this, but no one should ignore the fact that these things are still very real.”

Although Brunt and Sciver find complete acceptance in the England dressing room, they are aware that they are still in a workplace, and any spillover from their personal lives can negatively impact the rest of the squad.

“We keep it completely separate,” says Brunt. “It’s a professional thing to do.

“We can’t risk fighting or getting upset because we’re here to win cricket matches for England.”

Struggling with motivation early last summer, Brunt was inspired by a conversation with her brother Daniel, but is happy to admit the end of her career is “not far off”.

“I definitely have a moment in mind,” she reveals. “The problem is that everyone wants to finish well and it doesn’t work that way.

“Claire Taylor announced her retirement very suddenly. She just got up in a chair in the team room. It was a real shock and I felt the emotion.

“Ever since she did that, I kind of feel like doing the same thing. I feel like announcing it and having all this fuss before, that’s not me. Maybe be that I’m just going to leave at sunset.”

Because when she finally hangs up her boots, Brunt already has her own real estate development company.

“When I realized that I loved doing it as much as playing cricket, it was a big thing for me,” she says.

“I don’t need a lot to be happy.”

Maybe Brunt will finally see Muse and Kings of Leon.

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