The leading wicket-taker for England Women in One-Day Internationals with 135 scalps. The first cricketer, male or female, to appear in 100 Twenty20 Internationals. A 14-year career that has seen her be a part of the winning side in the inaugural Women’s World Twenty20 against New Zealand on home turf in 2009, and two World Cup titles including a thrilling final against India in front of a packed Lord’s in July 2017. Numerous accolades, including the Member of the Order of the British Empire honour in 2014. Jennifer Louise Gunn, or simply Jenny Gunn, has seen it all — the ups and downs of the women’s game, the comings and goings of captains and teammates. And she’s not done yet.
During the ODI series that England lost 1-2 in India, Wisden India caught up with the 31-year old to discuss her long career, her time away from cricket and that special T20 landmark. Excerpts:
How did cricket happen, and how did the England cap come about?
I come from a really sporting family. My dad played football at a higher level but in the summer in his off season, he’d go and play cricket. So as kids, we went down and watched him. Loads of the kids would go in the back and play during the days, mess around and play all sports. I then found that I was alright at cricket and started off playing cricket, probably as a fielder in my dad’s team.
I was lucky that at my primary school, we had cricket some 30 years ago. We played in competitions and there was this one competition we played at Trent Bridge Cricket Ground. We were on in the middle and someone spotted me and said, “Do you want to come to the England trials?” As a youngster, I literally jumped at the chance and went. At 13, I ended up being on the England Academy team and went through the ranks from there.
Did you always want to be a fast bowler?
I wanted to be a wicketkeeper because that’s what my dad was when he was younger. But he kept saying I was too tall, so I started to bowl. All my family are allrounders, so I’d have to bowl at my brother, you’d get him out and then you’d bat. I guess it was one of those things that we wanted to be involved in the game so in being a bowler, you can at least still be like involved in the game all the time.
Fourteen years is a long time. You’ve seen a multitude of changes, across English cricket and on a global scale as well. Any particular changes that have stuck out?
I think one of the biggest things is the fitness side of it. The intensity has gone up considerably since I first started. We’ve never been able to play this much before because we were so unfit but the fitness side has helped. We can bowl quicker, we can throw further, dive more, hit the ball further and I think it just shows around the world that you’ve got big hitters… Ash Gardener, she’s only a youngster and she’s coming in from Australia, smashing it and you’ve got Nat Sciver for England smashing the ball and Danni Wyatt who’s only five feet tall and she can hit the ball out of the park. It shows no matter what your physique is, you can be powerful and hit the ball, which is probably something that we want to show to girls and probably boys that even if you are small, you can still be powerful.
Anything specifically related to England cricket?
We have been lucky at England. When I first started, I was at college. Some of the girls on our team are at university but you can have a career now in cricket, which is massive. I used to go coach in schools where you’re like, okay you can do this and do that but they said we need to get paid. They’d go and choose a different career whereas now, it’s like you get paid to play cricket. So there’s hopefully more girls who want to play cricket now after seeing that you can be professional and you can get paid for doing something you love.
1) “No matter what your physique is, you can be powerful and hit the ball, which is probably something we want to show — even if you are small, you can still be powerful.”
2) “I guess it’s a record that no one can take away from me. It’s nice to be the first person, male or female.”
It’s been a whirlwind several months for England Women. Winning the World Cup at home last year and then failing to regain the Ashes Down Under at the end of the year.
The World Cup in England was massive for us. A home World Cup is amazing for everybody and it means so much more because your friends and family can come watch the games and who knows when the next home World Cup’s is going be? That was massive, to win a home World Cup, and a few of us have done it before but to sell out Lord’s, that was something special which I think no one’s going to forget very quickly. But we fought really hard and we’re a young and different team. We’d only been together really for a year, so a lot of changes happened and we believed in what we were trying to do and it kind of came off for us. We know we’re going to keep working harder because everybody else is in the world, so we’re going to keep pushing and pushing in the right direction.
And losing the Ashes?
Well, we didn’t lose them. They held them, so they had the Ashes anyway. It’s always difficult to get them back when the Australians have them but we were actually quite happy that we did a good job to draw the whole series because Australia’s always a tough place to tour. To draw that series, that was something special in that year. We would have liked to win them back but for them to not win that Twenty20 series after they hadn’t won a series since 2015 — that was one of our jobs and it meant we kept world No.1 before them which since that night we’ve got back. The things that we can keep doing to stop Australia, that’s what we want to do.
The first cricketer to play 100 Twenty20 Internationals. Did you know you were approaching the milestone, and what does it mean to you?
I knew I was close because our media manager told me but for me, I just want to play as much cricket as possible. I try not to think about the stats and stuff. I just try and do the best I can. I was probably quite happy that Danni Wyatt got a 100 that game because it took all the attention off me which I was quite happy for her that day. I guess it’s a record that no one can take away from me. It’s nice to be the first person, male or female.
Did the team have a special celebration lined up?
We all got together as a team and they’d managed to get hold of my family and they created a video for me, which was really special. They were gutted because I didn’t cry but it was something special and even though they couldn’t be here in India, they could celebrate it with me, so that was nice.
The women’s game has really exploded in India, especially after their entry into the World Cup final. Many have suggested a Women’s Indian Premier League to keep the fire burning. What are your views on that?
India have been such a good side for years now and it’s a shame that they’re only just getting the recognition now for what they’ve done in the last year, but who knows? Women’s cricket is going from strength to strength and the Twenty20 competitions around the world, whereas in India, it’s in their blood. Everyone loves cricket, who knows what’s going to happen. But I think it would be very exciting if it does.
When you are not honouring domestic or international commitments, what does downtime include?
I’m really quite lucky because I live quite close to my family. When we get back to England, I’ve already been booked in to take my little nephew to a cricket session. I don’t tend to get away from it too much but it will be nice taking my 3-year old nephew to a cricket session and just kind of having a muck-around rather than being really serious. Like I said, we are a sporting family, so we’ve got quite a lot of dogs in our family as well. Getting out and about with the dogs, walking and seeing my grand-mum and dad, it’s always nice to have that downtime.
And finally, as you mentioned, India is a cricket-crazy nation. How has the reception been during both the T20 tri-series and the ODI series?
The World Twenty20 (in 2016) was just like no one really came and no one turned up, even when you got through to the semifinals. I think people knew there was a World Cup on but no one gave it a chance whereas I think the best thing was India getting to the final last year because Australia and India had sell-out crowds where they played and we’re getting decent crowds here. When you’re just walking around, people know you’re playing cricket here, so it’s definitely improved. Like I said, for a cricket-mad nation, it’s going to go from strength to strength.