Interviews

School's out for summer as Alice Capsey hits the road

Teenage star braced for second season in the limelight after breakthrough displays in 2021

Paul Muchmore
12-May-2022
Alice Capsey top-scored for the Invincibles with 59, London Spirit vs Oval Invincibles, Women's Hundred, Lord's, July 25, 2021

Alice Capsey top-scored for the Invincibles with 59  •  Getty Images

Most 17-year-olds don't get recognised when taking their driving test. But it's safe to say most teenagers don't become an overnight star like Alice Capsey did in the summer of 2021.
"It was actually a bit weird actually. I did my driving test a couple of weeks ago, and my tester knew who I was. It did go well, maybe that's why I passed," Capsey joked at the Surrey pre-season media day.
Last season saw a dramatic rise to prominence for the teenage allrounder, who was thrust into the spotlight as the youngest player in the inaugural edition of the Hundred, where she announced herself with an eye-catching 59 off 41 balls at Lord's for Oval Invincibles against London Spirit.
While Capsey started the tournament opening the batting, she shifted down to strengthen the middle order and provide some impetus later in the innings when South African allrounder Marizanne Kapp was missing due to injury. With Invincibles also suffering from the absence of Kapp's compatriot Shabnim Ismail for a chunk of the competition, Capsey stepped up admirably when thrown the ball by captain Dane van Niekerk. Her offspin dismissed the likes of Heather Knight, Deandra Dottin, Laura Wolvaardt and Danni Wyatt, while she maintained one of the best economy rates in the competition.
Capsey finished as the Invincibles' joint-second-highest run-scorer and their third-highest wicket-taker as they clinched the inaugural title in front of a record crowd at Lord's, and to top her summer off, she was the Player of the Match as South East Stars claimed victory in the first edition of the Charlotte Edwards Cup just two weeks later.
She was duly awarded the first PCA Women's Young Player of the Year award and received her first professional domestic contract in October. In January, Capsey was part of the England A squad that toured alongside the senior team for the Ashes series in Australia. All of this while she was still at school.
So how does she balance such a blossoming cricket career with her A Level studies?
"I tried to cram as much in before I went out [to Australia]," Capsey explains, "I did a little bit while I was out there, but I tried to just take in the whole experience because it was my first time out in Australia and my first actual England A tour."
While the series against Australia A saw fairly lean returns for Capsey, a 31-ball 44 in the first T20 her only score of real note, she called the tour a "great experience" and felt that her time in the Hundred had prepared her well to face a strong Australian side.
"I was actually really happy with how I performed, I didn't really get the big scores, but I was happy about how I was going about my innings and how my bowling was going so that felt good."
"I think it would have felt like a big step up if I wasn't in the Hundred. I think the Hundred was massive for someone like me, it was kind of my first experience of a franchise competition and playing against the best in the world."
While a call-up to the main England squad feels like it'll come in a matter of time for Capsey, she echoes Heather Knight's comments that they shouldn't "over-egg" her potential in the near future.
"We didn't really have any conversations, I was more just trying to show myself and show I can do it," Capsey says. "I think like [Knight] said, I don't want to peak too early and I'm very conscious that I've had a taste of what it's like and I know that I need to be consistent this year if I want a chance of getting into the squad.
"Obviously it's a really tight squad and there's a lot even sitting on the bench who are great players. It's a really tough squad to get into."
Nevertheless, despite downplaying her potential England credentials, like any young player, she can't deny that playing international cricket is the dream.
"My future goal is obviously to play for England. Any World Cup is a great event - that's kind of the pinnacle of what you want to play as a player," she says. "It'd be great down the line to get picked for a World Cup. There's a lot of competitions coming up now that are really, really exciting. Hopefully in the future I'll be able to play some of them."
Following her A Levels, Capsey will head into her first summer as a professional cricketer, with the start of the Charlotte Edwards Cup on Saturday, the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy following that in July, and then the second edition of the Hundred in August. Capsey says it was a fairly easy decision to forgo university and to put her full focus into cricket. With her path ahead now clear, it's hard not to feel her excitement for the opportunities that may come ahead.
"It wasn't necessarily a tough decision because of the opportunities there are now," Capsey said, "because obviously, a couple of years ago there weren't regional contracts. Now there's a bit more security, and there's actually a pathway to having a professional career.
"I think [finishing school] kind of comes at quite a nice time, finishing in June, you've got a few regional games I can focus on before going into the Hundred and getting ready for that. And then obviously, after the Hundred there's a few regional structure [matches]. I'd really like to go back to Australia and play in the Big Bash at some point. So there's lots of exciting opportunities that I can start to kind of see in the pipeline. Once I finish school, I can start to really get excited."
Looking back at her breakthrough summer, Capsey admits she was naïve about how big the Hundred was going to be for her, prior to making her bow in the curtain-raiser at The Oval.
"I didn't expect it to be as big as it was and didn't expect the crowds," she reflects, "so going into that first game, I was quite nervous. It was a great atmosphere. And I think it was a competition that kind of suited how I play.
"I think the crowd helped me and it was just a great competition to be a part of. I think I was quite naïve going into it, about how big it was going to be, and how my performances would actually affect my career. But looking back, it was great."
Capsey's aggressive batting endeared her to fans old and new as she took the Hundred by storm, and she was quick to credit her coaches for giving her the license to play in such a fearless manner.
"I think it's just how I go about my cricket," she said, "that's just how I enjoy it the most and you hear players say it so often that the more you're enjoying it, the better you play. I tried to stay very true to how myself and how I played when I was younger. I love hitting the ball hard and love boundaries.
"I guess there is a bit of fearlessness because I had a lot of backing from my coaches. They were great. Jonathan Batty (Surrey and Oval Invincibles coach) and Johann Myburgh (South East Stars coach) were both great in just saying go out there and do your thing. And if it does go wrong, that's okay."
As well as the springboard the Hundred has given her own career, Capsey is enthusiastic for the impact the tournament has already made in bringing a new audience to the game. Despite the fact she will only turn 18 on the opening night of this year's competition, she is taking the chance to be a role model for the next generation of young cricketers well in her stride.
"I think the Hundred changed a lot of people's minds last year, I think it's just going to keep on doing that each year," she says. "It's given me the opportunity to go into schools and to go into clubs and see the younger generation, and also to inspire. So I personally love the coverage and being able to almost make a difference. It's been really good.
"Kids who didn't know what cricket was are now playing cricket, and when you're coaching that makes it so much easier because you've got something to relate to them with. And that's kind of what you want from the competition - it's to get more people involved, to get more people watching it.
"I think you can see, as the competition went on, the crowds got bigger in the women's competition, and we ended up with a record-breaking 17,000 fans at the final, which was great to be part of as a player. I think just go give it a watch."
Along with the regional contracts, women's salaries have been doubled for the second edition of the Hundred, and it's the increased investment and focus on the women's game by the ECB that Capsey believes will play a crucial part in creating more role models, growing the game at the grassroots level to feed into the elite system.
"I think after the 2017 World Cup, they realised that actually, England women's cricket is quite good, you can build on that. There's a lot of momentum after that year.
"Then the regional structures came in and we saw where it was five players per teams getting a regional contract last year, that massively boosted the competition and just how players played their cricket. It was more exciting. The higher investment into that regional structure has shown that actually, domestic players can step up at the franchise competitions like the Hundred, where there's more pressure on them.
"I've now personally had a lot more opportunities through it, which is just going to grow the women's game, there are more role models in view for people to aspire to be like, and get girls and boys into cricket. The more there are [playing] at the grassroots, the better the elite will be."

Paul Muchmore is ESPNcricinfo's Social media editor