Following her appointment in October, Ollie Godden looks at the reasons why Lisa Keightley could help England’s female cricketers catch up with Australia.
If you can’t beat them, hire them.
It’s becoming something of a trend for English teams to employ Australian coaches in order to turn around a lean patch.
Eddie Jones was one; Trevor Bayliss another. Now it’s the turn of Lisa Keightley as she was last week appointed the new England women’s cricket head coach.
The 48-year-old was already set to take the reigns of an English team next summer, having been announced as the women’s coach of London Spirit in The Hundred.
But she will now relinquish that role in favour of taking charge the national team after Mark Robinson – who led England to their sublime World Cup victory on home soil back in 2017 – resigned.
A fine player – averaging nearly 40 in ODIs and becoming the first woman to score a century at Lord’s in 1998 – Keightley has since coached Perth Scorchers in the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) amongst other domestic roles.
She was also the Australian women’s head coach between 2007-2008, the first female to hold the position. Coincidentally she will now also become the first full-time female head coach of England’s women.
It is not just her exploits on the pitch and as a coach which made her the stand out candidate for the role, but her knowledge and experience of the Australian system in general; of how it works and how to overcome it.
The ECB have confirmed that former Australia international Lisa Keightley is to become to the new England Women’s Head Coach.
— Test Match Special (@bbctms) October 30, 2019
Australia’s dominance has been plain to see for a long time. The side has not lost a One Day International since October 2017 and hammered England 12-4 in the multi-format 2019 Ashes.
It’s safe to say that investment has had a large role to play in Australia’s stay at the top of the rankings. After failing to reach the 2017 World Cup final, Cricket Australia agreed a deal which saw payments lifted from $7.5 million to $55.2 million and a minimum retainer for international representation set at $72,076.
However, it is not the representation fee that has automatically created a winning streak, but the general professionalism in the game that the investment has bought, as most clearly shown in the running of the WBBL.
It has allowed talented players to become athletes dedicated to their craft and provided opportunities for players with promise. This includes 16-year-old-Pheobe Litchfield, who is already creating headlines in her debut WBBL season, becoming the youngest player to notch a 50 in the competition.
This would not be possible with a coaching structure in place to facilitate the development of individuals. Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Australia coach Matthew Mott explained how the country’s investment in coaches over a period time has been a major factor behind the women’s international success.
In short, Australia have created a blueprint for success. Increased Investment, brilliant players and quality coaching equals success and Keightley has been at the heart of that.
The ECB have already taken steps to emulate that, with the aforementioned The Hundred at the heart of their plans.
Whilst there has been controversy surrounding the format, there is no doubting that it will supersede the Kia Super League in terms of strength and Keightley believes that stronger domestic competitions will create better domestic cricketers which will, in turn, mean greater international sides.
She represented Australia in 92 internationals, scoring 3,009 runs including a career-best 156* in an ODI against Pakistan in 1997.
She was the first female cricketer to score a century at Lord’s.
Happy Birthday, Lisa Keightley! pic.twitter.com/duT832jWDq
— ICC (@ICC) August 26, 2019
The eight regional performance centres born out of The Hundred will also provide an important pathway for domestic players not yet on the international stage. Every year, five players from each region will gain full-time deals independent of the central contracts, meaning there will be 60 full time female cricketers within a year and over 100 in five years time – a catalysed for an improvement in standards.
The ECB announced last month that £20million will be invested over two years, and £50million over five, to help fund 40 full-time professional contracts and help grow all areas of the women’s game. There’s one tick.
And now, by appointing Keightley, the ECB have someone at the helm who not only knows how to implement this level of funding in the best way possible, but someone who understands how to do it in English cricket.
That’s because the former New South Wales batter was also in charge of the England Academy between 2011-2015 and will have worked with many of the current crop of internationals.
She understands what is needed to succeed yet respects how this can be converted into a familiar structure elsewhere.
As head coach of the Scorchers, Keightley will seen more of the likes of Ellyse Perry, Meg Lanning, Alyssa Healy et al. than most others and will consequently have more plans of how to overcome and beat them, something which seemingly no-one has done for quite a while.
And with a host of world class stars already at her disposal – Tammy Beaumont, Danni Wyatt, Heather Knight and Nat Sciver to name a few – she certainly has the talent there to close the gap before the investment brings through a new and expanded group of international stars.
With the T20 World Cup just a few months away, there will be an early opportunity for Keightley to show her credentials as England seek to exact revenge on Australia after losing in the 2018 final.
Q&A: Get to know Lisa Keightley – The new Head Coach of England Women on her new role, the Ashes, the 2020 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup and more…
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) October 30, 2019
She certainly faces a tall order though to turn around the fortunes of a side that performed rather poorly this summer so quickly.
In truth, the test of whether this theoretically shrewd move will manifest into on field success will be judged over a long period of time.
here is an opportunity for Keightley to assemble the components of a successful side at a time when the ECB are making a real and tangible pledge to driving forward the standard of the women’s game.
Undoubtedly an exciting voyage lies ahead, and Lisa Keightley is could be the driver of change.