During 4-8 September 2019, the BBC Test Match Special team commentating on the Fourth Men’s Ashes Test at Old Trafford featured not the most familiar voice or as one would put it, an unusual presence in the press box.
Not an experienced pundit, not a frequently heard former cricketer either.
Focused on the ongoing Test, the voice didn’t exactly mirror the relaxed disposition evident from the easy-going denim and long-open hair.
But there was more to this once-in-a-blue-moon outing. On her part, this was a ‘work experience day’ as told in an interview with England’s Professional Cricketer’s Association YouTube Channel.
Yet a question stood out. Why was this person strapped to the microphone and not somewhere in the nets?
Retirement at 28- if at all one’s suspicion- would be the last thing in the minds of an athlete who’s passionate to represent her nation.
But there was clarity on the matter courtesy an interview given later that year to England’s Professional Cricketer’s Association YouTube channel.
Candid akin to the honesty with which she’s striven to succeed, Kate Cross mentioned her intention to get in touch with the PCA to ensure there is something to ‘fall back on if the worst did happen or if that she wasn’t selected for any tours.’
You couldn’t be blamed for thinking why would a ready to rumble cricketer explore a second fiddle to her cricketing career despite having age and fitness on her hands?
It’s precisely here that it becomes necessary to think whether the only challenges that modern cricketers face emerge on the pitch?
Some, like Kate Cross, often confront inner turmoil and bravely so.
In 2018, Kate Cross explained that for days she would just sleep and cry. Failure to remove a pinch-hitter or dismiss a night-watchman without much ado could simply be some reasons that birth anxiety to a fast bowler.
On her part, Kate Cross has not shied away from but battled anxiety issues with the same zeal she countered the West Indians two months before slipping into the guest commentator role with the BBC TMS team.
The highlight of her against Stafanie Taylor’s team where she picked 5 wickets in 3 ODIs was her spell at Worcester in the second game.
While ‘player of the match’ Shrubsole dented the Windies top order, it was Kate Cross’ spell- 4 overs- 4 runs- 2 wickets- 1 maiden- that ensured Windies would never recover from a collapse that punctured the middle order.
Not always does one West Indies’ women’s highest run-scorer in T20s walk back in single-digit scores.
But Cross bowled 20 dot balls kept chipping away at a powerful line up like a woodpecker drilling a tree.
Two months later, in December, Kate Cross exhibited familiar thrust with the white ball, this time choosing Kuala Lampur as the venue to hit Pakistan.
In fact, Kate Cross fired the opening salvo in the First (of the three) one-dayers itself.
Aided by a big team score to defend (284), Kate Cross took four wickets on her own, as many collected together by Sciver, Brunt, and Shrubsole- the most recognizable troika of England’s current pace attack.
She’d round up the games with a tally of 5 scalps from two games, sitting out in the final washed out contest.
For someone who has broken plenty of records in her career, only 16 when adjudged the ‘most promising young cricketer,’ by English selectors and coaches you’d be wrong to think that anxiety issues are the only problems Kate Cross has confronted.
Hers is a career that’s witnessed more bumps and twitches than a real-life MI6 cloak and dagger saga for Her Majesty.
There’ve been highs like beholding the record for being the first woman to play in the 123-year-old Central Lancashire League, an experience that Kate admitted brought more nerves than the challenge of representing the national team.
Her memorable 3 for 19 from a seven-over spell for Heywood would’ve had yet more wickets had brother Bobby not dropped a chance. But the jovial English girl capturing a memorable cricketing spell took to Twitter minus any fusses.
There’ve also been difficulties a bit too harsh to endure such as having to wait so long to Test debut that at one point she even decided to give up on her career.
Though many would call her patient wait worth the trouble since she’d rock Australia (January 2014) in a backbreaking spell that punctured the middle order, collecting 6 wickets in a memorable England victory.
It’s not always easy to be counted on debut especially against an Ellyse Perry looking in an ominous form (71 and 8 wickets) but at Perth, Cross was up to the task from ball one, emerging with six debut scalps one shy from Shrubsole’s tally.
Not that one of Manchester’s finest offerings to the powerhouse of women’s cricket didn’t adapt well to other forms. Determined to make it count having missed the ODIs during a 2019 tour to India, Kate made it count in the T20s, bowling England to victory in the 3rd game (Guwahati) with her 2 for 18 from 4 overs.
A game England would win by 1 run. Kate Cross collected 4 wickets from the 3-match series, yet again making most from the chances offered.
A bowler who hits the deck hard and can hold an end up, Kate Cross has been on the money in ODIs as well, her most famous spell of 5 for 24 holding back the White Ferns in a series leveling effort.
Just the kind of hard-as-nails performance Kate Cross burst on the scene with upon marking her 50-over debut.
In the 2nd ODI at Port of Spain, removing Kycia Knight, JW Ogle-Thomas, and Stafanie Taylor for single-digit scores, Kate ensured the West Indies crumbled under a decimating spell that yielded 4-51 and a ‘player of the match’ performance.
But having seen it all in a career that began when none among England’s noted spin trinity- Sophie Ecclestone, Mady Villiers or Sarah Glenn- had made their debuts what cuts a forlorn figure is the number of games Kate Cross has gone on to play.
One hopes to see several more additions to a number that cuts perhaps an underwhelming figure at 42 and with that, several more wickets that only Kate Cross- who knows nothing about calling quits- can add with gusto.
For someone who had to be moved to the hospital right before the start of the ICC Women’s World Cup 2020, suffering multiple torn ligaments and a severe sprain falling right on the edge of the boundary (during a warm-up), it’s what lays inside the ropes that hold true meaning for a fearless English competitor.
The pitch is where Kathryn Laura Cross of Manchester belongs, above anywhere else.