Women's sport is at its 'highest point'- Ebony Rainford-Brent

Former England and Surrey cricketer Ebony-Jewel Rainford-Brent received her MBE at Windsor Castle on Tuesday. While doing so, she proudly declared that women's sport in the UK is at the 'highest point' it has ever been.

Brent was accompanied by Emily Scarratt of England Women's Six Nations rugby fame while receiving the honour from the Prince of Wales.

Rainford-Brent stated after the event that women's cricket had come a long way since she stepped into it way back in 1994.

The cricketer turned commentator said, "Women's sport is at the highest point it has ever been, and I think I feel special seeing both sides of the coin."

In 2001, aged 17 years, she became the first black woman to represent the England national team, soon after her stint as Captain of the Surrey women's team. 

Often termed a Test Match Expert or Pundit, Brent was one of the first female summarisers to have been a part of a men's international cricket commentary panel and was inducted into the Sky Sports' cricket commentary team in 2020.

She expressed the challenges she sees ahead for women's cricket, "I think awareness and visibility are starting to happen. Next is an investment. I think if you look from a women's sports perspective, we need more money going in to increase the standard, which then gets more broadcasting and then it kind of creates this cycle."

She went on to add, "I want to see the gender pay gap closed. There's still a huge gap in pay for females at the moment. It is closing, but it's still a long way to go, and I would like to see that accelerated."

The former cricketer has also made significant strides in ensuring equal opportunities for the black community. This includes charity work to inspire youngsters from the community to take up cricket through Surrey's African-Caribbean Engagement (ACE) programme, which was launched in January 2020.

Speaking on the purpose of her initiatives, she said, "I was honoured to be the first black woman to play, but I always wanted to make sure that there were more young people that had that chance. So it's been a long, long journey, but I think it's an honour to be able to see the young people hopefully enjoy cricket and sport as much as it's given me, not just from a professional side but also just developing yourself; as a person."

Rugby star Scarratt, who was instrumental in England's fourth successive Women's Six Nations title in France just three days earlier, expressed her uneasiness on being awarded due to it being a team sport and called it "strange to do by yourself". However, she added that it was no less than a 'huge honour' for her.

"Certainly since when I first started playing rugby, and in the last years, it's just skyrocketed. We've broken attendance records at every home game we've had at this Six Nations, which is crazy, and I know lots of other nations have done the same at their respective venues", she claimed while speaking about the evolution of women's rugby during the course of her career. 

A joyful yet hopeful Scarratt ended by saying, "Giving these girls an opportunity to give their best by making them professional – we've seen the results of it by being professional ourselves – it just makes a massive, massive difference."