“To be playing a lot more cricket, to be playing with different people and to be having those different experiences and challenge yourself in different conditions and around different people as well – that’s the life of a professional cricketer.”
Kristen Beams, the 32-year old Australian legspinner, went straight from the World Cup to the Women’s Super League in England. When she will finally return home, she will step into a heightened role for Victoria Women in the Australian domestic season with Meg Lanning, her international and domestic captain at Victoria, sidelined by a shoulder injury.
In a chat with Wisden India, Beams reflects on her time in England with Loughborough Lightning, the aftermath of the World Cup loss to India, the upcoming Ashes series in Australia, and her personal goals. Excerpts
Was it easy for you three to continue to stay on in England after the loss to India?
The three of us (Ellyse Perry, Elyse Villani and Beams) here with Loughborough Lightning are really excited to have the opportunity to not only play together, but also have this experience at the backend of the World Cup. It would have been easier to be disappointed after the World Cup and go home and get stuck back into things down there, but to stay here, we’ve had such an amazing experience. We’re being so well looked after. It’s been really enjoyable to play cricket with different people and to learn their games and certainly challenge what we do, and have different coaches and voices around that.
Talk us through that semifinal against India.
There’s (always) pressure around a World Cup game. Full credit to India and the way they played. Harmanpreet (Kaur, who made 171) played a beautiful innings and that’s what World cups are about, the things that people remember. We didn’t control and unfortunately we didn’t have our best game – that’s how cutthroat World Cups are.
Pressure is something international cricketers always have to deal with. But with Australia being one of the top teams, do you feel that it gets too much and people always have high expectations of you?
There’s always going to be pressure and scrutiny from the media and it’s something that we’re used to as the game continues to be more and more professional. [As] cricketers, the most pressure comes from within ourselves. We set ourselves such high standards as individuals and as a group that whatever happens on the outside, it’s certainly nothing compared to the pressure that we put on ourselves to perform each week. We’re accountable to that and we don’t shy away from the fact that we didn’t have the success that we would have wanted to as defending champions of the 50-over competition. So for us it’s about getting back into it and playing our best cricket in this Ashes.
Talking about the Ashes, Meg Lanning will not feature in the squad. How difficult will that be? You play domestic cricket with her as well.
It’s always a huge loss to lose your captain who just happens to be the [best] batter in the world. There’s always going to be a part of us that’s going to miss her, not just from a leadership point of view, but also what she does on field. That’s a huge hole for our team, but at the same time, it’s a huge opportunity for our batting group to fill that void. It’s an opportunity for some batters to get stuck in and prove that they are world-class and not be overshadowed by Meg, who’s been so dominant.
Any thoughts on who might captain the side? You replaced her in a Women’s Big Bash League game in 2016-17, do you fancy your chances?
I don’t expect to even have my name mentioned! There’s so many great options there – Alex Blackwell, Ellyse Perry, Rachel Haynes – it’ll be interesting to see who they go with.
From a leadership point of view, it’s just about playing your role and being what the teams needs. That’s certainly my philosophy going in – anything I can do to help us win games is what I’m about.
Rachel did a great job of captaining the side during the World Cup. We’re still unsure who’s going to take the reins but if it was her, she did a great job and certainly it was an easy transition for us.
On the domestic talent at Loughborough Lightning
The team already has Beth Langston, Amy Jones and Georgia Elwiss who are, in my opinion, very talented players and will be very successful England players. Underneath that, there’s a whole stack of players who will step up and take that opportunity. We’re just really lucky that they’re such a great bunch of girls and who are really ambitious about improving their game and that’s such a great atmosphere to be in as a player.
The first Women’s Day-Night Test will be played in Sydney later this year. On top of it being an Ashes series, are you excited about the prospect of playing with a pink ball?
We can’t wait to play in an Ashes series! It’s just about trying to get myself in that team; we’ve got such a talented group back in Australia, it’s certainly not assumed that I’ll be a part of that series.
A lot of us haven’t played a lot of pink-ball cricket, so that will be a new thing for both teams in how you prepare and how much will it swing and how much will it spin and all the different variants that we’re not sure of yet. We’ve certainly been gathering as much information as we can about how it’s going to be. It’s hard to get a read on what’s happening (with the pink ball) in the men’s game compared to us, because there are so many differences.
When Beams was 28, she took a break from international cricket because of her inability to consistently feature in the side. Continuing to play domestic cricket for Victoria, she had a stint in county cricket with Essex, regained her lost contract in 2014 and made her Test debut in Canterbury in 2015.
Any particular reason for the break? And what was the difference when you came out of it and joined the international scene again?
I took a break from internationals but I was still playing domestically (for Victoria). For me, probably getting a bit older – and I hadn’t really been able to make my way into the side – was always challenging.
[The Essex stint] was just an opportunity to clear my head and have a bit more balance and get back to doing what I love – enjoying my cricket. I probably wasn’t enjoying it at that time, it had become a bit of a slog and it felt like things really weren’t going my way. To come over here and have a cool experience, I played some county cricket, and when I went home, I was in a better frame of mind. I started to play better cricket and within 12 months, I started playing for Australia. So for whatever reason, that seemed to be a bit of a catalyst of what unfolded.
On training at Loughborough University
The team (Loughborough Lightning) here are unbelievably well coached. They’ve got a great set-up under Sally Ann Briggs. It’s world-class here in terms of their facilities and their coaching resources. For the domestic players here, they’re so unbelievably well prepped to play well in this tournament – from where we sit, it’s just about trying to add to that and cashing in on any experiences and any knowledge that we have to do that
Was being born in a country with one of the greatest legspinners of all time, Shane Warne, the reason for you turning to legspin?
I’m not very tall. Like most people, I started bowling medium pace and then probably wasn’t going to get any taller, so started to have a look at legspin. At that time, Shane Warne was probably at the height of his powers, so it sort of made sense to start bowling legspin as a kid. In some ways, it’s probably been a lucky move for me – there haven’t been many legspinners coming through the system. We have a lot now, but at that time, I was lucky to be just one of a couple. I think if I was an offspinner, I wouldn’t be playing for Australia, so I’ve been pretty lucky.
What is the key to becoming a successful legspinner? Any coaches that you’ve worked with that have influenced you?
It depends on the format a little bit. Consistency is key. For me, it’s about not being traditionally what we talk about legspinners, that they turn it a bit but they go for plenty of runs, that they sort of lack that consistency. I’ve tried to, as much as I can, be the opposite of that, be the most consistent bowler I can be. Particularly in short-format cricket, you want to be hitting the stumps and asking more questions.
I’ve been well coached over my journey. Terry Jenner was my first coach and he obviously did a lot of work with Shane Warne and I’ve been lucky to work with him … Bryce McGain … I’ve worked with Joe Dawes, which is a little different in that he’s been a big fast bowler by trade. He’s certainly brought some different ideas to the table and that’s been the real difference for me. We’ve done some things to straighten up my run-up and get my everything going a little bit more towards the target. That’s certainly helped from a consistency point of view. I guess I’ve built a different kind of game to other legspinners because of that and that’s worked really well.
Finally, how excited are you to be going back home after so spending much time in England? Anything specific you’re looking forward to in the next six months?
It’s a cool opportunity to spend as much time here and I’ve enjoyed that. To get home and be back around my team, be captain of the domestic side this season in Meg’s absence, for me, it’s about spending some time with those girls. We’ve got a young squad and a very new squad with some different faces, so I’m looking forward to the opportunity to hopefully make a contribution given Meg’s absence.
From a team point of view, we’re all eyes on the Ashes. There’s certainly been a lot of scrutiny around us based on the performance in the World Cup. For us, it’s about really sending a strong message.