Jon Lewis is adamant that having no experience in women’s cricket will not prove a barrier to success as England women’s new head coach. “You coach individuals, you don’t coach gender,” he says, speaking on just his second day in the role.
It is a philosophy the 47-year-old developed in his previous positions as head coach of the England men’s under-19 squad, and as fast-bowling coach of the senior side under Chris Silverwood. “I coached Jofra Archer a lot, but I also coached Mark Wood – two people from completely different backgrounds, and you coach them completely differently,” he says. “You have to show each individual that respect.”
Lewis was something of a surprise appointment, having been shortlisted alongside several coaches already working within the England women’s setup, but impressed the ECB director of England women’s cricket, Jonathan Finch. “My pitch was, I was so excited about the lack of ceiling that the team has got,” he says. “The team is ready to fly, and my job is to take the handbrake off and free the players up and get them to play to their full potential.”
His first two meetings in the job have been with the captain Heather Knight and the 37-year-old Katherine Brunt, suggesting that despite recent rumblings about retirement, Brunt remains critical to his plans. Knight, meanwhile, is fit and raring to go for next month’s tour to the Caribbean after a hip operation caused her to miss two months of cricket this summer.
In a two-hour conversation over coffee on Tuesday, the pair began to establish a relationship which will be critical to England’s chances of challenging their old rivals Australia, both in the forthcoming T20 World Cup in South Africa in February and next summer’s Ashes series.
“I talked to her about herself, and how she could become a better player,” Lewis says. “I talked to her about all the stuff she didn’t like doing, and what I could take off her, to help her to be a better leader. I asked her opinions about her teammates. She was really excited about what lies ahead for her and for the team.”
England looked rudderless over the summer without Knight at the helm so Lewis’s verdict on the meeting – “we got on really well” – bodes well. Another key conversation in the coming days will centre on Knight’s new deputy. Nat Sciver has chosen not to continue as vice-captain as she begins her comeback after a mental health break. Lewis’s choice of successor could offer an intriguing insight into his vision for the team.
For Lewis, it’s an exciting time to be making his debut in women’s sport. “I read a quote the other day from Wayne Smith after the World Cup final, about how he never thought in a million years he could get 40,000 New Zealanders to pay to watch women play rugby.
“When I read that, I was like: ‘That’s something I would love to achieve as a coach’. I want our team to play the style of cricket that brings people into the stadium.”