Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Charlotte Edwards had no idea that cricket could be a career option when she was knocking up with the boys at Ramsey Cricket Club in the early 1990s.
But, 20-plus years later, while England’s men were suffering one of their worst ever Ashes defeats, it was the Pidley-born batswoman who led the country’s ladies to back-to-back glory with a second consecutive win in the equivalent women’s competition.
With matches in Perth, Melbourne, Hobart and Sydney, it all felt a million miles away from Ramsey’s Cricketfield Lane, where, as a teenager, she first got a taste for the game.
“I didn’t have a clue that you could play for England as a women when I started playing cricket at Ramsey,” said Edwards, who is now 34. “But as I got older, the opportunities got better and I made my debut for England at 16.
“It was nerve-wracking but I was young and I coped with it well and I learned a lot.”
Edwards was taken to Ramsey Cricket Club by her father Clive and uncle Hughie, who both played for the Huntingdonshire club. Her brother Daniel also turned out for the Rams.
“It was natural for me to go along and play and I ended up playing in the youth teams,” she said. “I didn’t have any ambition to be a cricketer then – I was just having fun. But then I got selected to play for Huntingdonshire and I got spotted and put on a list for England development.”
By the time Edwards was 12, she was being fast-tracked. Soon she had hooked up with the women’s team at Kent and her England Test debut came against New Zealand in 1996.
One of her youth team contemporaries at Ramsey remembers Edwards’s cricketing prowess well. James Gilbert, who was two years younger than the only girl in the team, played with Edwards in Ramsey’s under-13s in 1993 and 94 – and he has a photo to prove it.
“I’m pretty sure Charlotte was the captain of that side,” he told The Hunts Post. “It seemed quite natural to have a girl in the team – we didn’t treat her any differently. I think sometimes the opposition players were a bit surprised to see her playing but that was soon forgotten because she was such a good player and was better than the rest of us.
“We always knew she would be a huge success as she had such natural ability and a great attitude – but it really is amazing to think of what she has achieved.”
Edwards is undoubtedly one of the best batsman ever to play the women’s game; she has a test average of 47.67 runs but insists there was a lot of
luck involved in the way her career kkkkdeveloped. Perhaps she was in the right place at the right time? “When I started there was no way a woman could have a career in cricket and when I made my England debut I was using my own gear – equipment that I had paid for,” she said. “But now it’s a full-time job and I am aware of how much luck has been involved in that.”
Edwards is not the first women cricketer to become a sporting household name. In the 1960s and 70s Rachel Heyhoe Flint – now Baroness Heyhoe Flint of Wolverhampton – was a recognisable name. But the stratospheric rise of the women’s game in recent years has put Edwards on a different level. In 2009 she was appointed an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
After taking over the captaincy in 2005, Edwards’ reputation as an inspirational leader increased. Success after success for both the team and its captain followed, culminating in that second Ashes win over Australia earlier this month. “It was fantastic to get the win and it was a real team effort,” she told The Hunts Post. “We knew we were good enough to win it but it is always daunting going to Australia.”
Unlike the men, the women played a multi-format Ashes series which was made up of one Test match, three ODIs (one-day internationals) and three Twenty20s.
Different points totals were awarded for each discipline – and the crucial six points won in the Test in Perth in early January went a long way to securing the Ashes, which were retained with a two-point win in the first Twenty20 which meant an unassailable 10-4 lead.
The imposing Ashes trophy – nothing like the tiny urn that the men play for – was England’s.
The format has been slightly controversial – but “I’m a huge fan,” says Edwards, who even thinks it could spice up some of the lesser Test series in the men’s game.
And what of the future? The former Somersham Primary and Abbey College pupil is hoping to inspire as many young ladies to get in to the game as she can.
Edwards spends a lot of her time visiting schools and clubs to promote the sport’s Chance To Shine charity so there are no thoughts of slowing down just yet.
“I don’t know how long I am going to go on,” said the England captain, who is off to skipper her team at the Women’s World T20 competition in Bangladesh in March.
It really is non-stop at the top for England’s finest.