By Bharath Ramaraj
It was 16 years ago when Charlotte Edwards lit up the Hyderabad Cricket Stadium with a scintillating 173 in the Women’s World Cup. Charlotte is now a veteran, but still a force to reckon with as she proved when she recently scored 137 runs of just 88 balls against a formidable New Zealand side and just on Sunday while scoring 109 against India.
Charlotte grew up watching her father and uncle play club cricket. With few girls playing cricket, she had to play with the boys. In fact, she dreamt of playing for the England men’s team! But what makes her story fascinating is she went onto captain the Huntingdonshire’s Boys Under-16 team. During that time, she played with future First-Class cricketers like Scott Newman and Will Jefferson. There were boys who were apparently annoyed by her playing for the boys’ team, as a result of which they hurled beamers at her to prove a point.
It’s only to be expected that a prodigious talent like Charlotte would be fast-tracked into the national set-up. At the tender age of 12, she was representing England under-19s when girls of her age were busy thinking of how to finish their homework.
The big break soon came her way when she was selected to play for England in Tests against New Zealand in 1996 at age 16.
The cricketing world took notice of her talents when she hit a century the very next year in a one-day game against South Africa at Taunton. It was followed by her record-breaking 173 not out against Ireland in the 50-over World Cup, in 1997. The record, however, broken the same day by Australian Belinda Clark, who made 229 not out against Denmark.
In 1999, Charlotte showed her class against the touring Indians in a Test match, with a well measured century at Shenley which prompted the well-known English journalist Ted Corbett to say that she will become a legend of the game.
Around that time, Charlotte suffered a career-threatening ligament injury while playing hockey. Some reckoned she may never be able to play again. But with hard-work and determination, she rose like a phoenix. She didn’t just recover from that terrible injury, but went on to become the most capped one-day player in the game.
By 2006, Charlotte was appointed as full-time captain of England. It was yet another feather in the cap of this ace cricketer from Huntingdon. Under her leadership, England twice scored series wins over Australia, won the 50-over World Cup and T20 World Cup, both in 2009. The victories greatly helped raising the profile of women’s cricket in United Kingdom.
Claire Taylor, Charlotte’s former England teammate and a veteran of 128 ODIs, once said: “She is a great captain. And there are a couple of reasons for that. Firstly, she is so involved in the game, she thinks about cricket all the time. It is just part of who she is. She is always watching the game on TV – she calls it research. It doesn’t matter who is playing, whether it is an Australian State side or anybody else, she’ll be watching. Just to see what is happening, how other people are playing the game and what other captains are doing.”
Like all great leaders, Charlotte leads from the front. Against Australia in 2010-11, England found themselves in dire straits, in the one off Test at Sydney. But she sparkled in the ruins by making a fine hundred.
Australians had enough variety in their attack to trouble any opposition: the fast bowling sensation Ellyse Perry and her partner-in-crime, Rene Farrell, made early inroads. They were well supported by couple of parsimonious spinners in; Lisa Sthalekar and Shelley Nitschke. Charlotte had to bring in all her experience to the fore to tackle the girls from Down Under. The magnificent innings by her went in vain, as England were crushed by seven wickets.
Charlotte Edwards’s greatest contribution to women’s cricket will always be the fact that she inspired many young girls to dream big.
(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelizes his passion for the game by writing about it)