Issy Wong on cricket, climate change and inspiring the next generation


Issy Wong, who was only 20 years old, has been capped by England in all formats
Dates: September 18, 21 and 24 Places: Hove, Canterbury and Lord’s
Coverage: Live text streaming clips on the BBC Sport website and app, live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra and highlights on BBC Sounds and BBC iPlayer

There is a lot to know about Issy Wong.

His grandfather is Chinese and his uncles played cricket in Hong Kong. His great-grandmother won a medal spying for the British.

He is a national champion in Eton Fives (a variation of handball) and was rejected for a sports scholarship at Uppingham School because of his “lack of speed and agility and not good enough at cricket”.

Wong can complete the Rubik’s cube in 30 seconds, but his record is 16. He is a committed Liverpool fan and returned from Paris on the Sunday after the Champions League final to play at Central Sparks that day.

It says a lot about the growth of women’s cricket that all this information was in the public domain before Wong bowed out to England in the Test against South Africa in June.

With a fascinating back story, unique looks and a fun approach to the game (he fires rockets and hits the ball hard), the 20-year-old was probably the most famous England debutant of all time.

Wong, however, is candid to admit that there is a big difference between “Wongy” the cricketer and Issy the person.

“In my mind, I feel like two personalities,” he told BBC Sport.

“There’s Wongy who plays cricket – I’ve never been called anything else. That’s the extrovert most people see. Then there’s Issy, she’s not so outgoing, she’d rather stay in and be happy to keep to myself. She doesn’t have that side.” it doesn’t come out that much because I spend 90% of my time playing cricket.

“One is bigger the more I’ve played, but the other one doesn’t come out as much, so it’s not really seen. A lot of people don’t know Issy.

“Sometimes, when Issy is not sure about a situation, Wongy takes over. If you catch me as Issy, she would take a different opinion to Wongy. Wongy is the one I trust when I go to the field: hair, earrings. , going into the bowl to hit my head” .

If there really are two parts to Wong’s persona, it was the extroverted side that she said was like “the Divock Origi of women’s cricket”, a nod to Liverpool’s cult hero on her Test debut against South Africa.

Since then she has played eight Twenty20s and two one-dayers, and is part of the England squad for the ODI series against India, which culminates in the first women’s international at Lord’s for five years.

Wong has worked as a pundit for the BBC and Sky, and is also one of the faces of We Got Game, a new platform that aims to raise the profile of the women’s game and highlight the role of community, solidarity and friendship.

Confidence hasn’t always come naturally, and his ability to prove himself can be traced back to when Wong was 14 in a prestigious competition at Shrewsbury School. The Bentley Elocution Prize requires students to recite a poem and was once won by Michael Palin.

“I remember hating public speaking during school. I wouldn’t speak in class, I hated reading out loud,” says Wong.

“I knew a silly poem from primary school called Ning Nang Nong, so I thought I’d stand up, say it, and finish it as quickly as possible. I did, but the teacher left me behind and told me no one would ever take me seriously for doing such things and I needed to reinforce my ideas.

“So I left the classroom, learned a really good poem called Repetition and won everything in my year group. I got an award on speech day and I’ve never felt more satisfied than when I shook the headmaster’s hand.”

For who he is and what he does, it is no exaggeration to place Wong as one of the country’s most important cricketers – male or female.

The all-action style is instantly appealing, but there’s no escaping her position as a role model in a historically poor England women’s group that reflects the nation’s diversity. She is only the fifth non-white woman to play for England.

Throw in a magnetic personality and there’s an opportunity to play out a serious part of his life in front of an audience.

“It’s a little scary,” Wong says. “Recently it’s picked up pace. I went to Ikea with my dad and a man and his baby stopped me for a photo.

“I was holding a plant we got for mum, a bit of storage and I was taking a picture thinking ‘you know what, this is a bit weird’. If I want to play cricket, this is it.”

With a high profile comes great responsibility and also an opportunity to do good beyond cricket. Wong knows full well, already thinking about where he can make a difference.

“I look at Marcus Rashford, as a Liverpool fan I have no reason to like him, but I just respect him,” Wong says. “The other example is the NBA and the WNBA, how they allow their players to have a say on important issues.

“Sport in England is always ‘don’t be controversial, be grateful’, but I see a lot of things in the world that could be better. We need to solve climate change for a start.

“Sometimes I get a bit sad. In 15 years time the girls I’m trying to inspire will even be playing cricket? Will it be too hot, will we have enough water to run the pitches?

“I have to work out what I’m going through and what I’m going to do about it.”

England is in a period of transition. Anya Shrubsole has retired and Katherine Brunt’s career is coming to an end. As Wong makes his way in international cricket, he has the potential to be a spearhead on and off the field.

“There’s a quote that says, ‘Don’t be the best, be the only,'” he says.

“That’s pretty cool, isn’t it? That’s not being someone else, that’s being real. That’s what I’m trying to do.”