Kate Cross at the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup © ICC via Getty
Kate Cross heard the crack and felt the pain in her leg, but it’s where her mind went racing to next that was hardest to take. Suddenly, lying on the Sydney Showground Stadium turf, she saw the 2021 Women’s World Cup in New Zealand and she wasn’t there.
Cross, the England seamer, suffered a severe sprain and multiple torn ligaments in her right ankle when she landed on the boundary rope attempting a catch during the warm-up for her side’s final T20 World Cup group match, against West Indies in March.
“My first thought was, ‘I’ve snapped my leg in two here’. I thought my shin was facing the wrong way and my foot was off on all sorts of angles so I then got myself into a big panic about it and I think made the whole situation worse because then I was screaming, ” Cross tells ESPNcricinfo.
“They gave me the green whistle [pain relief inhaler] in Oz, which is quite a big deal, and everyone saw the pictures and thought, ‘God she must have snapped her shin bone or something,’ but I think they gave me that to try and help me breathe because I think I got into a bit of a panic attack about what was going on.
“My brain immediately went to the 2021 World Cup in New Zealand and I thought, ‘That’s it, i’m not going to play in this, it’s going to be that bad an injury.’ When I was laying on the floor, that’s where I got to, in the space of probably 20 seconds. Obviously I’m really lucky that it’s nothing as serious as that.”
It will likely be another five to six months before her ankle is completely pain free, plenty of time before England are scheduled to begin their 50-over world title defence in New Zealand in February. But it is telling just how much Cross wants it that her first thought upon suffering the injury was that it might all be taken away – again.
Kate Cross receives treatment after injuring her leg during the warm up ahead of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup match between England and West Indies © Getty Images
Cross missed England’s victorious 2017 World Cup campaign amid a two-year absence from the international scene, during which time she grappled with anxiety and depression.
“Seeing the girls win the trophy in 2017 and missing out on that squad and having to sit in the crowd whilst the girls played in front of 25,000 people and lifted a World Cup on home soil, that was heartbreaking for me but at the same time it was one of the best days that I’ve been involved in cricket,” Cross says.
“I remember thinking on that day, ‘Right, 2021, that’s going to be my year and I’m going to push really hard to get into that squad.’ I think that’s why when I had the injury my first thought went to the World Cup. It certainly showed me how important that World Cup is for me.”
Cross enjoyed a fruitful 2019, forming a key part of England’s one-day attack alongside Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole in away series against Sri Lanka and Pakistan and a home summer against West Indies and Australia. While she was part of the T20 World Cup squad in Australia, she did not play a match in the tournament.
“In terms of confidence, last summer gave me such a boost because I realised that I could be part of that team and help them win,” Cross says. “So hopefully that 2021 World Cup would be something that I could really thrive in.”
Cross admits that the Covid-19 crisis has changed her outlook somewhat so that a return to any form of cricket in a safe environment would be welcome. There is no guarantee the World Cup will go ahead in light of the pandemic, and while Cross has let go some of the anxiety she felt over cricket’s uncertain near future, she admits the current lockdown has been tough.
But there have been upsides, including the help of friends like former England team-mate Alex Hartley, temporarily moving back in with her parents and being able to find a focus in her ankle rehab.
“Honestly, some of my worst days that I’ve had in probably two years have happened in the last eight weeks, particularly around when I wasn’t seeing any progress with my ankle and I was getting really fed up with that,” Cross says. “This is where Hartley was really good for me because I had a day where I think I stayed in bed pretty much all day and I must have watched, I think it was 10 episodes of How To Get Away With Murder on Netflix back-to-back.
“I just said to her, ‘I’ve written today off, I’ve had a shocker.’ She said, ‘Look, you would probably have this day if we weren’t in lockdown, it’s fine to have these days, just don’t let those days become a habit, don’t then have the same day the following day, make sure you get up and go for a walk or whatever.’
“So I’ve found that when I’ve had a bad day, then the next day I’ve been a bit more motivated because I’ve not wanted to fall into the trap of getting into those bad habits.”
Cross spoke openly about her mental health struggles after returning to the England side in a one-dayer against New Zealand in July 2018. And, as difficult as it can be to revisit the topic at times, she is glad she put it out there.
“I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to talk about it because I knew as soon as I’d done it, there was no taking it back,” she says. “I’m a talker anyway but I just thought, if I’ve got the ability to do something as powerful as helping one person get through a bad week or stop them from doing something silly, whatever it could have been, then I couldn’t believe that I didn’t want to do that interview.
“It’s made me almost feel like it was worth going through what I went through because it’s just normal, everyone goes through it and everyone I speak to has said as soon as they started talking about what they were going through, things started changing. It just goes to show the power of talking.”
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo