Heather Knight: WPL auction a distraction but England still focused on World Cup

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Heather Knight expects Monday’s inaugural Women’s Premier League auction to turn heads during the T20 World Cup but the England captain insisted “it doesn’t need to be an elephant in the room”.

After starting their World Cup campaign against the West Indies at Paarl on Saturday, England take on Ireland on Monday in a clash that might be overshadowed by another landmark moment for women’s cricket.

Every member of England’s 15-strong squad will go under the hammer in Mumbai, and while there are only 30 overseas slots open to the 163 non-Indian applicants, those selected may get career-high pay days.

Interest is not solely limited to the players as it was announced on Friday that England head coach Jon Lewis will oversee the Lucknow franchise UP Warriorz for the tournament that runs from March 4-26.

England v South Africa – First Vitality IT20 – The Cloudfm County Ground
Heather Knight has a base price of £40,000 at the WPL auction (Adam Davy/PA)

“It would be naive to think it isn’t a slight distraction,” Knight said. “It’s on everyone’s minds.

“We had a chat about it (on Friday morning) and I think talking about it is a really healthy thing, it doesn’t need to be an elephant in the room.

“How we manage it as individuals is very important. For us as a group, we’re going to be really open, try and talk about it and just see it as a bonus and know that each individual player’s worth in the England team will not change depending on what happens.

“It’s something we’re having to get used to as cricketers as the landscape changes a lot and more drafts and more options come into the game.”

“There might be a chance there’s some stuff beforehand and it’s just going to be up to individuals to decide whether they want to know or not and respecting team-mates and what they want to do,” she added.

Knight has had six stitches in her lip, the result of a fielding mishap in this week’s warm-up against South Africa, but confirmed she and Alice Capsey, who has recently returned to action after a dislocated shoulder, will be available to face the Windies.

England debuted a more attacking philosophy when they clean swept the Windies in eight white-ball matches in the Caribbean before Christmas, although the hosts were without several experienced players.

The Windies appear a stronger outfit now against an England side that lost their tournament opener in 2020 and the 50-over equivalent last year and in 2017.

Alice Capsey is available for England's opening T20 World Cup match against the West Indies (Will Matthews/PA)
Alice Capsey is available for England’s opening T20 World Cup match against the West Indies (Will Matthews/PA)

“They’re a dangerous side on their day and I think if we can start really well against them and try and bring back memories of that tour in the West Indies, that’s going to be really important.”

England’s opening defeat in 2020 came back to haunt them as a semi-final washout meant India progressed by virtue of topping their group, although there are reserve days for knockout matches this time.

Asked whether England’s recent disappointment in major tournaments spurs her on, Knight said: “They do in training and in your preparation for the tournaments. They give you learnings about how you can be better.

“But it can be a bit unhealthy to have that sort of mentality. I think it’s really important to focus on what we do really well and how we want to do things.

“We have that freshness and fearlessness of the young players but also, in tournament cricket, you want those experienced players that know how to win matches. We have a really nice blend there.”

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