“It’s a bit warmer than Aberdeen,” Kirstie Gordon declares of the Caribbean idyll of Saint Lucia. Than Huntly too, where she was raised and took her steps into the sporting fray. The 21-year-old is a proud Scot, a homebody effusive about her roots. Yet when cricket’s Women’s World Twenty20 gets its official opening in the West Indies this evening, she will be sporting the three lions of England, elated and not a little awed.
Already regarded among the best spinners in the game, Gordon’s is a familiar tale of a quest for opportunity and self-betterment. A member of the Scotland side, the Wildcats, she relished the chance to emerge from her local club and play second-tier international tournaments, with weekend forays into the ECB’s women’s one-day championship.
Her talent and ambition led her down south.
“I had the grades for most universities in Scotland but I thought ‘I want this’,” she explains. She decamped to Loughborough University, where English cricket’s academy is co-located. “Looking back now, I’m so glad I made the decision.”
This past summer was a whirlwind. The English staff liked what they saw during casual training sessions. There were part-time contracts up for grabs for the Loughborough Lightning, one of the prime franchises in the Kia Super League. But joining Lightning came with an important caveat. “I knew that because I was playing as a talent identification player and not as an overseas player, I’d have to give up my Scottish residency.”
It was no small ask and left her emotionally conflicted. “I wanted to know if it would be worthwhile but there were no guarantees,” she adds. “That was the scariest thing about it.”
The carrot was to serve her time and see where her cause could be furthered. Barely four months later, England contacted her.
“To get the call-up was super exciting and a shock in itself,” she admits. “When I got told I was going to the West Indies, I was pretty stunned.”
The television riches corralled by the ECB have afforded their leading female players decent contracts and an impressive support network. Such a career path seemed so unlikely when Gordon was among a small handful of girls who were tempted into the nets at Huntly through the club’s junior initiatives.
One by one, she saw friends take their leave. She persisted, claiming four wickets on her debut at the age of 14 for a First XI which was otherwise fully populated by grown men. “I used to have to change in the toilets,” she recounts of the Strathmore Union experience. “I’d arrive at grounds and ask where they were so I could get my whites on. But the guys at Huntly, were so good to me. I never had any issues. They were always very supportive.”
Likewise, Scotland who will have two representatives at the World Twenty20, with New Zealand’s Edinburgh-born off-spinner Leigh Kasperek also in the fray. Their native country has yet to qualify for a major event and, like their male counterparts, are still pushing uphill in the fight for scraps from the ICC.
“It’s down to the [Scottish] system that two players have come through it and gone onto greater things,” Gordon says. “I’ll do everything I can to be part of a winning team at the World Twenty20 with England. But I am still representing Scotland. There’s no shame in that. I get the mick taken out of my for my accent every day but I absolutely want to be a credit.”