In sport, statistics don’t often tell the full story. But it’s the statistics that give you the clearest indication of the enormity of Charlotte Edwards’ cricketing career.
England has played 481 women’s cricket internationals since the first ever women’s match in 1935 and Charlotte, well, she has played 298 of them. That’s 62% of all the matches England has ever played. 209 of those games have been as captain, a position she’s held for 10 years. Charlotte’s also been named the ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year, has scored more runs in limited overs cricket than anyone else and has been appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
In short, she’s one hell of a player.
“It’s something I’m hugely proud of and I think having turned 36 last week, I’m pinching myself to think where the games come from,” Charlotte tells Sportette from Perth where she’s currently playing for the Scorchers in the rebel Women’s Big Bash.
“I started playing in 1996 and pretty much paid for everything. To now think I’m playing professionally across the world in these wonderful competitions is something I could have only have dreamt of back then.”
A lot of people say to me am I jealous that I’m not 20 years younger, but I’m not at all. I would never have swapped what I have done for what the girls have now.
Making a living from cricket wasn’t something that even crossed a young 10-year-old Charlotte’s mind. Leadership came naturally to her and soon she found herself captaining the Under 11’s Boys cricket team. But it’s not the boys reactions she remembers but their parents’.
“Sly comments when I walked in, they just weren’t expecting a girl to be playing against their son. When I did well they didn’t like their son getting out to me or being hit around by me.”
“It wasn’t a particularly welcoming environment for me growing up. But it’s quite funny now you meet the same parents that probably said those remarks when I was younger and now they congratulate me on my wonderful career. How things change.”
How they do. Charlotte believes the last two years are where the biggest advancements have been made, admitting to being disappointed by the crowds when her English side toured Australia for the Ashes in 2013.
“And now to see most of the games are going to be televised and a lot more support at the grounds for the teams, it’s been fantastic to see how much that has grown in two years.”
Add to that the successful introduction of the WBBL and the launch of a similar domestic women’s T20 product “The Super League” in England in 2016 and the game is growing at a rapid rate. Yet she has no regrets that the professionalisation of the sport has evolved at the end rather than the start of her career.
“A lot of people say to me am I jealous that I’m not 20 years younger, but I’m not at all. I would never have swapped what I have done for what the girls have now. I think there are different pressures now that come with it and I just truly feel grateful that I’m played in an amateur era, in a professional era and I’ve got lots of things now to pass onto younger players.”
Charlotte feels another huge advancement is the respect female cricketers are receiving from their male peers.
“I think the integration for me in the men’s and women’s game is something for me that is something to be proud of.”
“To think that here in Western Australia, I’m in the next net to Justin Langer working with the men’s Scorchers and they’re talking about T20 cricket to me and sharing ideas about the game.”
But when you’re in the spotlight, you have to be prepared to feel the heat. With professionalism comes pressure and the recent loss to Australia in the Ashes had Charlotte front and centre of media scrutiny, with some headlines calling for her to resign as captain.
“I think that was a real eye opener to think you can be as successful as you want but if you lose a big series you’re suddenly you’re under the microscope,” Charlotte tells Sportette.
“You experience what the guys go through. I’ll take any criticism on board so long as it’s fair and some of it was fair, some of it was unfair.”
“I’ve played for 20 years now and I’ve had many blips in that time but because no one was interested, no one writes about it. But now everyone’s interested and you’ve got to be on your game every series and being professional there’s that added pressure now, which we welcome and it’s part and parcel of what we do now.”
And don’t expect Charlotte to give the captaincy away any time soon with the 36 year old adamant she wants to play on to the 2017 ICC World Cup on home soil.
“I’ve had a wonderful career, I want to keep contributing with the bat and ball if I can, as long as I keep doing that and I’m worthy of keeping my spot in the team, I’ll keep doing that.”
The Scorchers take on the Strikers at Adelaide Oval 2.10pm Thursday 31st December and will be broadcast on OneHD.
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