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Charlotte Edwards - The Batwoman


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Charlotte Edwards' achievements include becoming the only female cricketer to score 2,000 runs in T20 internationals, playing in 150 One-day Internationals, and being named one of Wisden's five 2014 cricketers of the year. Charlotte Edwards, England's women cricket captain, tells how she overcame prejudice in her cricketing career so far and emerged winner.

They won the Ashes against Australia last year as well as the World Cup, and are currently the most feared team in international cricket. Are we really talking about England? But surely they were thrashed soundly by the Aussies only a few months ago?

Yes, but that was the men's team. In contrast, the country's women cricketers are the envy of the world — and that to a great extent is due to the leadership of their star captain, 34-year-old Charlotte Edwards.

"If Charlotte was a man she would have been in the England team for years and might even have been captain," says former England star Graham Gooch. "She is in my book the best woman cricketer in the world."

Experts say that women's cricket is at last being taken seriously largely because of Charlotte's leadership and inspiration and she is expected to be made Dame Charlotte by the Queen when she eventually retires.

But at the moment she's still at the top of her game, captaining the MCC against the Rest of the World on the hallowed Lord's pitch.

And it's largely due to her influence that top women cricketers have been granted central contracts similar to the men, making them highly paid professionals — and silencing the doubters who still look down on women's cricket.

A five times Ashes winner and England captain since 2006, Charlotte says she's still getting used to being recognised by strangers in the street as "that women cricketer."

"People know who I am much more now, even when I'm in my normal clothes," she says. "I guess it's nice but I have to admit I'm not always comfortable about being pointed out in the street, although it's certainly different.

"Most of my career has been pretty tough. I've had to work for everything I've got and nothing has been put on a plate for me. I've had to do it the hard way but it's been all the more enjoyable for that.

"I've loved every minute of my career and now I'm really enjoying playing with the new generation of women cricketers.

"Times have certainly changed. When I was at school, girls played netball and hockey — cricket was just for the boys. But that made me even more determined to play it."

In fact Charlotte can't remember when cricket was not part of her life. Her father, a potato farmer, and her uncle both played for clubs in Cambridgeshire, where she grew up and she remembers watching them in action when she was only three.

She practised in the garden with her father and brother and was encouraged to play at primary school. She was lucky that her secondary school took cricket so seriously that she was the only girl in the team and eventually became captain.

"Those days were brilliant. The boys had grown up with me and I didn't get any special treatment. But boys from other schools thought I had no business being in the team and that made me mentally strong and determined to prove myself and play as well as I could."

She certainly did that — and was picked for the England women's team at 16, the youngest player ever selected. "I didn't care that I wasn't getting paid. I was just desperate to play for England. There was nothing else I wanted to do."

Largely due to Charlotte's success with the England team, things started to change for women's cricket and they were admitted to the men-only MCC for the first time in 200 years.

"It took a long time to change everything. We didn't get paid of course, had to buy all our own kit, pay for overseas tours and play in skirts.

"My parents had to pay for me to play cricket. I wouldn't have got where I am without the sacrifices of time and money my mum and dad made."

Charlotte admits she's made plenty of sacrifices, too. "Cricket consumes my life. Mornings and evenings are all spent with training.
 
"I don't have a partner — that's another side of your life you sacrifice. It's hard but I guess I have the rest of my life to do that. I get my enjoyment from cricket. I haven't got time for anything else.

"The women's game is never going to get the coverage that the men get. Men like watching men play sport. I don't think as many women watch sport but hopefully we're changing that.

"Men can hit the ball out of the park or bowl at 90mph whereas we can't physically do all that, but the skill levels are the same. "People, mainly men, come to watch us and say things like: 'Wow you can catch the ball!' You have to laugh, really."

Studies show that there has been a 49 per cent rise in the number of girls and women playing cricket in the past 18 months, mainly due to the success of England's women's team.

Charlotte says: "The only thing as good as winning is seeing girls encouraged by the team's success get letters from people saying: 'You've got my eight-year-old daughter wanting to play cricket for England.' To have a situation where girls can dream of becoming professional cricketers is amazing."

"Being a role model is something I take seriously because when I was growing up I didn't have one.

There was Steffi Graf but nobody in cricket. That's why I do everything I can to promote cricket for girls and spread the word."

There could hardly be a better role model — her achievements include becoming the only female cricketer to score 2,000 runs in T20 internationals, playing in  150 One-day Internationals, and being named one of Wisden's five 2014 cricketers of the year.

So what does cricket mean to Charlotte Edwards? "When I'm batting in the middle it's where I'm happiest," she says. "But you're only ever one ball away from getting out and that's experiencing the worst feeling ever.

"You're on a knife-edge when you're playing cricket. I can't imagine life without it."

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