News & Events

Surrey and England cricketer receives Cap 63 years after her debut!

May 22, 2024


Celebrating former PE teacher and Surrey and England cricketer receiving her Cap 63 years after her debut!

Sheila Plant was a much-loved and much-respected Head of Croydon High School’s PE Department for almost 30 years, between 1963 and 1992. An outstanding leader who was passionate about teaching and sport, Sheila’s first love, however, was always cricket.

Sheila Plant preparing for England Cricket Test Match against New Zealand (1966)

Sheila represented her country as wicket-keeper, appearing in 8 Test matches for England between 1960 and 1968 and also played domestic cricket for Surrey. In late 1968/early 1969, Sheila was given permission by the then Head of Croydon High, Miss Cameron, to be part of the England team on their tour of Australia and New Zealand. It was a significant leave of absence, as it was an extended tour, but clearly, the school was – and still is – very proud of Sheila.

There was no tradition in those days to award female athletes a ‘cap’ when they represented their country, and this situation remained the same in women’s cricket right up until 1998 (when the administration of the men’s and women’s game combined to benefit from Lottery Funding that would go on to transform opportunities in the women’s game).

Sometime later, Sheila was invited to receive her Cap but was unable to attend the ceremony. She assumed the cap would simply be sent to her, but this didn’t happen. Then, more recently, at a school event, Sheila was asked about her international career, and the story of the Cap—or lack of it—came out.

Enter three formidable women: Croydon High alumna Anne Welham, who had worked with the MCC for many years, school archive volunteer and former parent Mary Pat Larman, and stalwart of our PE department, Mrs Beck. Together, and supported by ally and celebrated English Test and Surrey cricketer Mark Butcher—himself a parent of Croydon High girls—they bombarded the ECB (the England and Wales Cricket Board) with requests to right this wrong!

And so, on Monday 20 May, some 63 years after she made her England cricket debut, Croydon High hosted a very special reception to award Sheila her England Cap, numbered 54, recognising her as the 54th woman to receive this honour.

Mark Butcher presenting Sheila Plant with her England Cap

Ms Davies welcomed a group of specially invited guests, including former pupils and current Surrey Women’s Cricket Captain, Amy Gordon, and members of Croydon High’s current cricket teams.

Sheila Plant with some of her pupils from when she taught at Croydon High

Surrey Women’s Cricket Captain Amy Gordon, Mark Butcher and Sheila Plant with current Croydon High pupils who are part of the Cricket Team

Ms Davies remarked, referring to the group of former pupils who had gathered to mark the event and who clearly have so much love and respect for their former teacher. “This is the joy of teaching: seeing the incredible impact people such as Sheila have on young lives and how that impact continues to enrich their lives many, many years later.”

Mark Butcher then presented Sheila with her Cap saying what an honour it was to meet her, one of a very small number of people who have represented their country at Cricket. He talked about Sheila as a trailblazer and an inspiration for young women such as Amy Gordon, who are now able to play their sports at the highest levels as professionals because of those who came before them.

Sheila herself then responded by saying how much it meant to her to receive her cap at the school she loved, amongst friends and the pupils she taught.

“The main reason I wanted to receive my England Cap was that I felt the school should have it,” she said. “I spent 29 summers coaching cricket here at this school and it was absolutely fantastic. I felt it was the best job in the world, and it was.”

Sheila then went on to present her Surrey Cap to Annabel Davies and promised that the England Cap would follow, to be displayed at the school. Sheila concluded, “ I am a proud former member of Croydon High staff – it’s wonderful”.

And it was a wonderful celebration of a remarkable woman who will always be a legend at Croydon High.

Mrs Fran Cook
Director of  External Relations and Philanthropy