Australian cricket agent guiding Guyana and WI cricketers
Exclusive by Brandon Corlette
Cricket is known as a gentleman’s game, but women are making great strides in every aspect of the game. This is the same progress shown by Australian Sophie Claire McIlwain, who has been offering guidance to Guyana and West Indies cricketers through her role as an accredited cricket agent.
Guyana and West Indies players Veerasammy Permaul, Shemaine Campbelle and Shenata Grimmond are some of the players who have signed Sophie as their cricket agent. And the likes of Sheldon Cottrell, Imran Khan, Akeem Jordan and Tevyn Walcott are other cricketers signed with Sophie.
In a wide-ranging exclusive interview with this daily publication, Sophie reflected on her journey, and spoke about the role she plays in the lives of Caribbean cricketers.
“I am a cricket agent, a cricket fan, a cricket tragic, a cricket nerd; but I also have a few accreditations to go along with what I do. I am an Australian Cricketers Association-accredited agent. I am an ECB (England Cricket Board)-accredited agent, and I am also accredited in South Africa. The West Indies does not have an agent-accreditation programme as yet, but I would love if they do. I think that is a great check-and-balance for the protection of players,” Sophie declared.
“I have a Master’s Degree (MBA) in Sports Management. I went to study with Real Madrid, to see what is going on in their operations. I am learning Hindi because I think that is the language of cricket. I study hard, and I try to learn every day and grow ever day in this role,” she explained.
“I love what I do. Being a cricket agent is one of the best jobs in the world. To be able to watch cricket – especially Caribbean cricket – up close, I am very lucky and very blessed; and every day I want to give back that blessing,” agent Sophie has said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the globe negatively, but it was a positive time for Sophie, as she started her agency during the pandemic. She had worked in the fashion industry for almost 20 years, but the pandemic period opened new doors for her.
“I have been a cricket agent for two years. I worked in fashion for almost 20 years before that. I was driven and inspired to become a cricket agent, especially with cricketers in the Caribbean, because I felt that so many people are passionate fans in the Caribbean. Everyone would say they are a fan of Chris Gayle or Kieron Pollard, but I felt that players that were not on that kind of radar did not get that kind of advocacy, or did not get ethical, dedicated representation. I wanted to be that agent for cricketers, if they choose me to be their agent. I was really inspired, and I want to be a positive force in cricket in the Caribbean,” Sophie explained.
“I told myself I will do another Master’s Degree, and I would study, work hard, and be the best agent I can possibly be. Every day I am building on that, and I am learning. I am not the biggest agent in the world by any means, but I think I love cricket as much as you can, and I respect my clients. I want to see them do really well and get every possible opportunity,” she has said.
“I started my agency at the beginning of COVID. I was actually the (care-giver) of my 102-year-old grandmother. She would have been in Zoom calls with me, and she was with me in Zoom calls when I was meeting my clients, and I started that in her spare room while there were lockdowns. The agency grew from there, and I wanted to do work in cricket, and wanted to work for the clients,” Sophie explained.
Permaul is a legend
Permaul has been achieving milestones from all corners, and agent Sophie is beyond proud of his efforts.
“What a legend is Veerasammy Permaul! An amazing guy! He is a quiet achiever, in my opinion. He is someone that needs to get more recognition worldwide. I would love to see him back in the Test squad. I represent him,” Sophie said.
Sophie is also proud to represent the Berbician duo of Shemaine Campbelle and Shenata Grimmond.
“I am proud to represent two fantastic female players in the Guyana and West Indies team: Shemaine Campbelle and Shenata Grimmond. I think they will do really great things. I recently saw Shemaine play in Hong Kong. I know her absolute inspiration in life is Shivnarine Chanderpaul, and I can see that (grit) and strength in her. She does not have his (Chanderpaul) technique, but I can see elements in her game,” Sophie has said.
In terms of challenges, Sophie noted that she has had a lot of sleepless nights to get her work done. The Australian disclosed that sponsorship of gear for cricketers has also been a challenge.
“I am in Sydney, Australia, and there is a club not too far from me, and I can guarantee that all the players there have sponsorship; so, they have that support and assistance. You know, sponsors are not coming to the party until Caribbean players make the West Indies team, or until they go to the IPL. I want to see sponsorship and support from a grassroots level. I am proud that both Campbelle and Grimmond are sponsored athletes,” Sophie has said.
Why should cricketers sign up with Sophie? According to the dedicated and passionate agent, she is advising cricketers to have goals to accelerate their careers.
“I want cricketers to sign with me if they feel positive with the way our interaction goes. I want there to be a vibe, and I want people to understand what I am doing. I want people to collaborate, and I advise any cricketer, whether Australian or West Indian, speak to your agent, ask them the tough question: ‘What are you going to do through thick and thin when I have a lean patch in my career? How are you going to support me, and what opportunities are you going to provide?’
“I always ask the players, ‘What’s your goal in one year, and what is your five-year goal?’ Then we work out what steps we can place to make that happen,” she said.
She added: “Even goals after your career, whether it’s a commentator or coaching, or mentor. I think, whether it is me or another agent, ask them what they are going to do for you! I am passionate, I work hard, and I will collaborate to help accelerate your career to the next level, to provide opportunities and new opportunities.
“If there are young cricketers watching or reading, I want them to make an empowered decision when choosing an agent,” she said.
“Read the contract, ask questions, and make sure your decisions about building your career.”