ALEXIA Walker, Sussex Women’s most capped player ever, played 146 matches for the county, winning six championships with and two T20 Championships, with the most recent this season.

At the age of 32, she is relatively young to take her bow.

The all-rounder said: “It was a big shock to most of the team I think because I’m still playing pretty well, but there’s plenty of youngsters now who can take over from me and carry on the success of the team.

“I think it was a good time to go, we’ve just won the T20 title and it's just before my body starts to ache and hurt more than it should do.”

Her cricketing journey started at the age of 10 when she went along to a six-week camp aimed at getting youngsters involved in the game.

She was the only girl there, and was plucked from more than 100 boys as the best player in the group.

As a result, she was invited to take part in a Sussex County Cricket Club session at The County Ground in Hove and six months later, she was picking up her first bat and representing the county.

She said: “It was a bit of a whirlwind start and I haven’t really looked back since.

“I started the year that the women won the World Cup and it was on the BBC, so very unusually there was a lot of stimulus and excitement around the women’s game, which was great for me and my new-found sport.

“I think nowadays there is so much around and so much on TV that it’s much easier for girls to get involved and get inspired and get the bug.

“I was a bit lucky for it to happen around the World Cup, because in the 90s it was quite unusual to see women’s sport on TV or the media, it was only keen girls willing to roll up their sleeves and get involved.”

Having captained Little Common and her sixth form college, she was used to playing cricket with boys, something she thinks stood her in good stead.

She said: “At the time there were no real girls teams apart from the junior set-up, it was all women’s teams, so my only choice was to play with the boys.

“I’d had a bit of experience playing football with the boys, so I was used to that atmosphere, but it was great and most of the girls who have played a high level of cricket have been in the same boat as me.

“It’s amusing at first for the opposition because they don’t want to get out to a girl and they don’t want to get hit for four or six by a girl, but your actual teammates rally around you and there’s real camaraderie.

“I wouldn’t change it for the world, but it’s nice there’s more opportunity for girls to play in girls teams.”

Thankfully, she only experienced light-hearted banter playing against boys, and recalls one time playing against a college.

Her team had arrived late and she had rushed out to bat without seeing the opposition.

Facing a boy, she smashed him for six before taking off her helmet, fixing her hair, and putting her helmet back on.

The fielders roared with laughter upon realising their teammate had been blasted over the boundary by a girl, but Alexia said it was all good-natured.

So should boys and girls play with and against each other?

Alexia said: “If they’re good enough, yes.

“You shouldn't play someone simply because they’re a girl, if they’re good enough to get into the team then they should play.

“You had to play well and you had to really deserve your place and prove to the boys you were in that team for a reason.

“It helped my game because it made me perform.”

She went on to captain Sussex Women for two of the County Championship wins, in 2008 and 2010 and admitted they were up there with the highlights of her career as well as her first title in 2003.

Alexia said: “Not only was it our first title and a very good season, it was also the year the men won for the first time – so for the county it was very special.

“We got to go up to Buckingham Palace together on a coach and I have fantastic memories of that one.

“I managed then to win two out of three as captain, so they were pretty special.

“With captaincy comes a lot of decision making and other stresses and a lot of responsibility, so to get over the line twice as captain was amazing too.”

And what makes a good captain?

“First of all a captain needs to be a good player and has to be able to lead with performances, but also I think knowing players is important,” she said.

“Even in a T20 game you’re with them for four or five hours, so knowing how they work, how they tick, who needs a shoulder to cry on and who needs a kick up the backside – you need that as a captain.

“As we’ve seen in the men’s game there are strong characters like Kevin Pietersen, so managing talent and personalities like that is important.

“If you’re willing to learn about that and getting to know who is around you, you’ll not be far off the mark.”

During her time at Loughborough University, she was talent spotted by Kent’s Graham Gilley and she was the youngest person ever to complete the England and Wales Cricket Board's Level 4 coaching qualification.

That is what the future holds for Alexia, who is director of cricket for the Aldridge Cricket Academy, combining Brighton and Portslade Aldridge Community Academy’s most talented players.

She said: “I fell into coaching in some respects, but you get to work with very talented and passionate young players and stand on the side and watch them express themselves.

“So it’s not a bad way to earn a living and carry on my love for the game.

“I feel I’m quite laid back, I quite like to sit back and watch and let them make their own mistakes and learn from them.

“I’m looking forward to watching from afar now instead of waking up on a Monday morning and gingerly making my way down the stairs.”