England’s Issy Wong is the perfect example of how London 2012 inspired a generation but she admits being on the verge of playing cricket in a multi-sport competition at her Edgbaston home is beyond even her wildest dreams.
The 20-year-old was completely swept up in Olympic fever a decade ago and watched everything from the men’s decathlon at the London Stadium to the rowing at Eton Dorney.
Seamer Wong would also attend the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow two years later and, fast forward to the present, is set to represent Team England in cricket’s return to the multi-sport event, which takes place in her home city of Birmingham.
“I managed to get to quite a few events in 2012 and I guess you could say it inspired a generation because here I am 10 years later at the Commonwealth Games,” she told the PA news agency.
“We actually have a house in London so we stayed down for the whole of the Games and, even if we weren’t there, there was so much to do and it was amazing.
“I remember watching lots of other sports. You get into it more in the multi-sport competitions and the atmosphere that goes with it. Hopefully cricket can benefit from that as well.
“I was playing for the under-11s at Warwickshire then but I never even thought I could play (cricket) at something like this. It is just an amazing opportunity to go out and have fun while trying to win a medal.”
Cricket’s return to the Commonwealth Games was announced in 2019, having first appeared at the 1998 edition in the form of a men’s international 50-over tournament, after the England and Wales Cricket Board and International Cricket Council successfully lobbied for its inclusion.
An eight-country women’s Twenty20 competition was scheduled and, despite being only 17 at the time, Wong had already started to make waves by helping Warwickshire to domestic T20 success that year.
The following summer she trained with England’s senior squad for the first time – months after the sport had been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic – before further recognition in 2021.
If 14 wickets for west midlands-based Central Sparks in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy got people talking, the teenager cemented her reputation in The Hundred with six scalps for Birmingham Phoenix supplemented by two consecutive sixes off soon-to-be international colleague Nat Sciver.
The hype rocked through the roof again in the winter when, not only did Wong dismiss the likes of Australia top-order batters Beth Mooney, Alyssa Healey and Meg Lanning at the Big Bash following a late call-up, she also blitzed six maximums during an innings of 43 in 17 balls for Sydney Thunder.
“It was probably hard to digest at the time, similar to this year, but I got some down time after I came back from the (Ashes) A-tour and it was nice to actually switch off for a bit,” she said.
“I was technically in season for 10 months between the region stuff, The Hundred, back to region stuff, then into Big Bash and into the A-tour, so it was pretty relentless but it was a really good year. I enjoyed my cricket as well, which was one of the main things.
“It was a breakthrough year and also a nice example of how fast the women’s game is growing because someone in my position probably wouldn’t have had so many good things happen to them potentially five years ago.”
Wong’s Big Bash exploits led to calls for her to make England’s Ashes squad at the start of this year but she had to wait until this summer to finally make her maiden international appearance at senior level.
Debuts have been like London buses since for the pace bowler, who made her red-ball bow in June, earned a first one-day international cap on July 15 and completed the set six days later with a sprint-format showing at Chelmsford.
After taking seven wickets in four fixtures across three different formats, few would bet against the Birmingham speedster having a big impact over the next fortnight when she aims help Team England win the five matches required to celebrate gold medal success on her home ground.
“I watched my first ever game of cricket at Edgbaston, I went to my first Warwickshire trial in the indoor centre across the car park and yeah, Edgbaston has been home ever since I started playing, so to play cricket in the Commonwealth Games at Edgbaston will mean the world to me,” Wong said.
“Until the squad came out, I was trying my hardest not to get too excited about it. It was obviously something I wanted to be a part of but I was trying to keep my concrete boots pretty grounded until it was confirmed.
“Now I know I am going, it is great but we are not going for a jolly-up or a good time, the focus for us as a squad is to win a gold medal. It is an opportunity we don’t get often as cricketers so yeah it should be really good.”
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