Sat, 02 Dec 2023

London [UK], November 24 (ANI): Jon Lewis, England women's cricket team's newly appointed coach, has listed his priorities after taking up the top job ahead of his tenure that will see the comeback of Nat Sciver from a mental health break.

In order to focus first on being a player before returning to any leadership roles, which she is eager to do in the future, Sciver has decided not to reprise her vice-captaincy during the upcoming trip to the West Indies.

It's believed that Sciver, who led England at the Commonwealth Games in place of the injured Heather Knight before skipping India's white-ball tour of England in September due to emotional exhaustion from a hectic nine months of cricket, is feeling good and eager to rejoin the ODI and T20I squads that will travel to Antigua next week.

Lewis has already spent two hours talking to Heather Knight, who is fit again after having hip surgery, while walking about the Loughborough University campus, where the ECB's National Cricket Performance Centre is located, two days after taking over the position from Lisa Keightley. Before her deputy is chosen for the Caribbean tour, the two will have more discussions.

After the absence of Knight, Sciver, and senior seam bowler Katherine Brunt who was rested throughout India's visit left Amy Jones as the team's somewhat hesitant captain with no plans to hold the position for an extended period of time, Lewis is eager to develop a core leadership group, which may very well include one or more of the younger members of the England squad.

However, the head coach is ecstatic that Sciver is back playing for the team for the time being.

"I'm absolutely delighted that she's up for coming on tour and up to the challenge that's ahead of her. She's a fantastic cricketer, someone who's one of the best cricketers in the world, and to have that sort of quality in your team as far as a head coach is something that is paramount," said Lewis as quoted by ESPNcricinfo.

"As much as I can get her out on the field and playing her best cricket and enjoying her cricket as much as anything, I think that will keep her out in the field more often than not, but there is now becoming the question of balance in women's cricket because there is a continual amount of cricket to be able to play if you choose to. Part of my job will be around managing schedules and understanding the individual needs of each player, and Nat in particular will be in high demand across every single competition because of the quality that she brings," he added.

Lewis also had a long conversation with Katherine Brunt. While the seasoned pacer will not be playing for England in the three ODIs against the West Indies, she is likely to participate in the five T20 Internationals that will follow and be a crucial part of England's preparation for the T20 World Cup in South Africa early next year.

"In the immediate future, which is the West Indies tour, we're working to manage Katherine back into cricket. Then we have a T20 World Cup after that and Katherine is an absolute legend of the sport, she's incredibly well respected and, watching her bowl across the summer, she is still bowling incredibly well. For me as the head coach, that's someone I want around and I want her to be playing as much cricket for England as possible. So that's one of the things we had a conversation about on a walk, her plans for the future," the head coach talked about the comeback of the veteran pacer.

"At the moment she's very much looking in the near future around this tour of the West Indies and then once we get through that, then we'll go again and we'll see where she's at. But at the moment she seems in a really good space and she's been training incredibly hard here. I'm looking forward to seeing her perform at her best in the Caribbean," Lewis added.

Lewis will have a total of 10 games in the format to get to know his team before attempting to dethrone defending champions Australia. It is anticipated that England will play a three-match T20I series with New Zealand in South Africa before two official ICC warm-up games heading into the World Cup that begins on February 10.

He may turn to Matthew Mott, a valuable asset who is returning from his native Australia after helping England Men win the T20 championship the same year he led Australia Women to the ODI championship.

"It'd be pretty dumb not to. He's had an incredibly successful period with the Australian team. I will definitely go and speak to Motty about what he did with the Australian team and the journey they went on and also the areas that they felt they could pinpoint in our group to win games of cricket," Lewis mentioned.

Lauren Winfield-Hill, 32, a top-order batter, is in the T20I squad despite being dropped during the 50-over World Cup at the beginning of the year. Lewis also has an exciting group of young players to develop after welcoming back four players with significant experience ahead of the trip to the Caribbean.

They include all-rounders Alice Capsey and Freya Kemp, as well as fast bowlers Issy Wong and Lauren Bell, who all grasped the chance they were given when they made their international debuts during Keightley's rule during the English summer.

When Lewis applied for the position, which required quitting his position as England Men's Pace Bowling Coach, he cited the opportunity to guide a group with such a combination of youth and experience as a big attraction.

In his final interview for the position, he stated as much to Clare Connor, the interim CEO of the ECB, and Jonathan Finch, director of England Women's Cricket.

"There's a really lovely balance of not only age range and experiences but skill level, and different types of skills, and exciting young cricketers who... the world's their oyster. My job is to help those players release their potential and I think that there's nothing that this group cannot achieve," England Women's head coach stated.

"My pitch was literally I'm so excited about the ceiling that the players have got, or the lack of ceiling the players have got, and that the team is ready to fly. My job is to almost take the handbrake off and free the players up and get them to play to their full potential," Lewis concluded. (ANI)

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