When Charlotte Edwards first played for England, she wore a skirt. She didn’t choose to. She was obliged to.
That debut came when she was 16 (she played for the under-19s at 12) The women’s game has moved on since then and you might have expected her to have been left behind at some point in the intervening 20 years. Not so. She was the team’s top scorer at the recently completed World T20. Charlotte Edwards can bat well in kecks too.
But no more. It was widely expected that she would stand down as captain (after ten years!) but she’s no longer going to bat for England either having announced her international retirement.
This seems a shame and, dare we say it, wrong. But the choice is her own and she must have her reasons. Her retirement statement makes reference to ‘detailed discussion with Mark Robinson’ and it seems clear the coach wants to build ‘a new team’.
He will do well to match the old one. In 2009, Edwards captained England to wins in the World Cup, the World T20 and the Ashes. She has made 10,000 runs in internationals. An England cricketer can’t really do much more than that.
All of this was achieved with extra pressure. Representing your country is one thing, but the very best female players are still representing their gender as well. If you’re one of the top performers in a high profile game, the onus is on you to show what women can do. That shouldn’t be the case, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t how things are. The very fact that you are reading a web page means you are more forward-thinking than a good number of people who follow men’s cricket.
The women’s game has progressed during Edwards’ career. Once it was hardly written about at all. Now it’s written about a little bit. If intentions are better, it takes time for the near-alliterative circle of promotion, payment and spectators to turn. Each revolution sees a slight improvement in each facet which then encourages further growth in the other two – but take a snapshot of cricket at this moment and the women’s game is still miles from where it deserves to be.
It’s slow, but things are changing. When we started this website, the average cricket follower wouldn’t know a thing about the women’s game. Now the average cricket follower does.
For that change to have taken place, great cricketers were needed – because you can’t build a narrative without characters. With fewer high profile matches than the men, those characters also needed to persist.
After 20 years of international cricket, half as captain, we can safely say that Charlotte Edwards did her bit and more.