Scottish Women and Girls in Sport Week – Q&A Ailsa Lister

Its Scottish Women and Girls Sport Week 2021!  To celebrate the 5th Anniversary, North East Scotland Cricket have engaged with Scottish International and Stoneywood Dyce player Ailsa Lister to get an overview of her cricket career to date.  We currently have very few Women and Girls playing competitively in the region, and we are on a mission to raise the profile of the sport and encourage more Women and Girls to give it a go regardless of age or ability.  Being physically active and taking part in sport brings with it many benefits across physical, mental and social platforms.  #SheCanSheWill

Q   How did you first get interested in cricket?

A   “I was first introduced to cricket through my brother Stuart, who is a couple of years older than me.  He got a cricket set for his birthday when we were very young so we could play in the garden together.  With me being a typical younger sister, I wanted to do the same things as him, and often it would get very competitive between us!”

Q   How old were you when you first gave cricket a go and when you played your first game?

A   “I think I was about 8 years old, as this was the youngest age group for Kwik Cricket at Huntly Cricket Club.  Watching Stuart play, and also through Neil Nicoll coming into my primary school for taster sessions, encouraged me to give it a go.  My first hard ball game was when I was 9 and I had to field for Huntly Under 13s as they were a player short.”

Q   How did the wicketkeeping start?

A   “I started wicketkeeping in Kwik Cricket because in my girls team I was the youngest by a few years and nobody else wanted to do it.  I knew quite early on that I really enjoyed it because even though I wasn’t running about in the outfield, I was always involved.  Having enjoyed it so much and my coach suggesting I carry on, I continued when I started hard ball properly at the age of 12.”

Q   Did you ever try bowling?

A   I used to bowl when I was younger, just because everyone had to have a shot.  In early hard ball days, I really enjoyed both so would keep for a few overs and then swap with someone so I could have a bowl too.”

Q   What is the most difficult part of wicketkeeping?

A   “The most difficult part of wicketkeeping is that each ball is completely different so I must be able to maintain concentration for long periods of time as the ball will come to me most deliveries whether bowled or thrown from the fielders.”

Q   Did you play any age group cricket before making the senior Scotland squad?

A   “I have played a lot of age group cricket through the years; with both boys and girls.  I played for Huntly for quite a few years up until U16 level.  I was 13 when I first played for Scotland U17s and Scotland Performance Academy, and then in 2019 I first played for Scotland ‘A’, before making my Scotland debut against England Academy in June 2019.  My international debut came in May this year (2021).”

Q   The recent Scotland trip to La Manga for the European T20 Qualifiers went very well on the pitch. How was it being involved?

A   La Manga was an amazing trip to be involved in, and not having played many games together as a team, apart from the series in Ireland in May, it really felt liked the team gelled well both on and off the pitch.  While still being one of the youngest and inexperienced in the team, my main aim for the trip was to try and learn as much as I could and to enjoy it.  I can safely say that both of these things were achieved!”

Q   What do you have potentially in your Scotland diary?

A   “We have nothing confirmed in our diary for now, as we are waiting to hear where and when the next stage of qualifiers is next year after our success in La Manga.  We are also waiting to see if we can compete at the Commonwealth Games, or if we have a set of qualifiers for that too.”

Q   In terms of wicketkeeping, do you have much competition for the Scotland spot?

A   In the Scotland senior squad I am not the 1st wicketkeeper, in every other team I play in I do keep.  I continue to work hard on both my keeping and my fielding as I never know which one will be needed.  In La Manga I was lucky enough to be selected as 2nd Keeper, and got the opportunity to keep in our game against Germany.”

Q   In terms of women’s cricket, is it problematic being based in the North East?

A   “Living in the North East of Scotland does sometimes have its challenges.  I miss out in playing in the Women’s Premier League, and all Scotland training involves quite a bit of travelling.  In other ways, I love playing cricket in the North East and I also love playing Men’s cricket.  It provides different challenges to Women’s cricket, and I believe it makes me a better cricketer playing both Men’s and Women’s.  Having played Men’s cricket in Huntly, and more recently with Stoneywood Dyce, the small community of cricket clubs in the North East has always been supportive and welcoming to me throughout my cricketing journey.  I hope that the women’s game will continue to grow and in years to come the Women’s Premier League will stretch all across Scotland including the North East.”

Q   You played twice in the Eastern Premier League (EPL) for Stoneywood Dyce in 2021 and they won both games. Did you enjoy the experience?

A   I loved my experience playing in the Eastern Premier League 2 years ago for Stoneywood Dyce.  It was great to get the experience of wicketkeeping at that level and even better we won both times.  My first time playing in the EPL was made extra special as my brother and I were the first brother sister combo to play in that league.”

Q   Who in the cricketing world inspires you?

A   “One cricketer in Scotland that inspires me is Abbi Aitken-Drummond.  She is currently the highest capped Scotland Wildcats player on 159 caps.  I love her passion for not only the sport, but also promoting and driving the profile of the women’s game in Scotland while being a great role model for all cricketers in Scotland including myself.  I am fortunate enough to play alongside her and learn from her.”

Q   Cricket Scotland are currently trying to increase participation by Juniors (especially girls) and Women.  Is there a specific format of the game you think appeals most to Girls and Women?

A   “I think T20 cricket appeals most to new people interested in cricket.  The short format of the game provides a new exciting version of cricket.  Softball cricket has also proven to be quite popular to women and girls so far, with tournaments like ‘The Wee Bash’ gaining lots of new interest.  Hardball sometimes puts some people off so I would suggest when starting out to try Softball as it’s a great way to learn the skills and rules of the game while gaining confidence.”

Q   It has been challenging for everyone over the past 18 months plus with the Pandemic, how have you managed to retain your fitness and continue training?

A   During lockdown last year, like everyone, it was hard to keep active and motivated.  There was quite a lot of garden cricket played at my house and to try and keep up my fitness, I was doing a lot of home work outs and running.”

Q   Apart from at school, are there any other sports you’ve participated in?

A   I have always had a sporty lifestyle playing many sports in school.  When I was younger, I played Rugby quite a lot alongside cricket, but recently in the last few years I have been playing Hockey.  I really like playing another sport alongside cricket purely for enjoyment purposes.  I believe that playing many sports helps you become a better athlete.”

Q   You are hoping to train and qualify as a Physio, has participating and playing in cricket influenced your career choice?

A   Through playing sport from a very young age I have been exposed to the different careers included in sport.  I have been injured a few times, and from when I first went to a Physiotherapist, I thought it would be a great career path to go down.  Then, since playing for Scotland and seeing what a physio does when involved in sports teams, I knew it was what I wanted to do as a career.”

Q   Finally, what would you say to other girls or ladies interested in giving cricket a go?

A   “I would suggest, if you are interested in cricket to contact your local club or school and just give it a go.  Grab a friend, (or even your mum!), and just head down and prepare to have some fun.  It has been great to see so many girls getting involved with All Stars, and it would be great to see some older girls and Women getting involved too!”

Thank you Ailsa for an overview of your cricketing experiences to date and opinions on the future of our Sport.  Also, we wish you and the Scotland team continued success for the future.