England are the best cricket side in the world – but even they can have a few off-days. In their one-day series with India this summer, they lost their opening two matches – but hit back to win the following three and secure the series.
It’s thanks in no small part to Charlotte Edwards MBE, their inspirational captain of six years’ tenure. Once the youngest-ever England player, making her debut at the age of 16, she’s since led her side to Ashes wins, World Cup wins and World Twenty20 wins. And she’s still not satisfied with that. Such is the mark of a top-class athlete.
“I want to win every game we play,” she announces. “I wanted to be unbeaten this year, but that’s obviously not going to happen now. So we’ve got one of the biggest events in world cricket in the next eight weeks [the World Twenty20 tournament], and we’ve dedicated ourselves to it. Hopefully we can achieve it.”
She doesn’t feel the pressure that you’d think was inevitable with being favourites. “Being favourites is a really good place to be. Other sides are always upping their game against England because they want to beat the best in the world, so we have to keep pushing ourselves.”
Edwards, like the rest of her squad, needs to balance her international cricket commitments with a day job. Fortunately, she has a role with Chance To Shine, a project to bring cricket and its associated values into state schools.
“I’m lucky – with my job, they’re very good to us, and I can be flexible with my cricket commitments as well as running skills camps and preparing for the biggest tournament of our lives as well as having some life outside of cricket,” she says.
This summer, prior to jetting off to Sri Lanka with her England squad, she’ll be running some two-day camps just for girls.
“That’s a fantastic initiative,” she enthuses. “They have two or three of us there with them, and it’s great to have girls coached by people who could be their role models.
“Year on year we get more, but we also go to different venues, we get as far and wide as possible. Getting girls as young as 5 or 6 is fantastic, and it’s nice for us to see how more popular the game is now. I always look forward to it. When I grew up I had to play with the boys – I’ve played for so long now and it’s been a massive journey to see how the profile of women’s cricket has risen.”
Ah yes, the inevitable question about the game’s profile and the double standards between men and women. The ECB have taken to scheduling some women’s games before men’s games in an effort to draw a crowd, and Sky air matches every so often. Of course, some would argue that because women’s cricket isn’t the “same standard” as men, they deserve less coverage.
That doesn’t explain why when, in 2009, Edwards was appointed an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, a TV reporter asked her what kind of frock she’d be wearing to the palace; they certainly never asked her male equivalent, Michael Vaughan, about his suit choice when he picked up the OBE in 2005.
“Yeah, they wouldn’t have asked a bloke anything like that,” she says. “It’s water off a duck’s back. I have years of experience of it now.”
That doesn’t mean she’s not optimistic for the future. As you’d expect from a great captain, she’s full of hope for positive change and eventual success.
“If I’d played cricket just for the recognition, I wouldn’t be playing it,” she admits. “I’d love to play in front of 100,000 people, but that’s not going to happen. I can’t control the media or anything else, so it’s about us, and how successful we can be, and winning games of cricket, and getting the next generation of girls through – maybe they’ll change things.”
She pauses. “Hopefully I’ll still be around to see it!”
England face Pakistan and the England Academy in a three-match Twenty20 series from September 4.
England face West Indies in a five-match Twenty20 series from September 8.
England are in the World Twenty20 from September 26.