Charlotte Edwards would have every right to feel aggrieved not to be leading England into their home Women’s World Cup later today.
The 37-year-old was controversially stripped of the England captaincy by coach Mark Robinson last year, effectively forcing her retirement from the international scene as she was told that the national team’s future was without her.
But, 12 months on from the moment when her world was “turned upside down”, Edwards has a clearer take on life after cricket and the importance her career has had on transforming the women’s game.
“My time has gone now,” Edwards told The Yorkshire Post.
“A year is a long time in sport. I am enjoying what I am doing now – willing the team on to be successful. I have played with a lot of players and a lot of them are my good friends.
“The only day I may envy them is Lord’s but once you step away from training at that level I wouldn’t be good enough now to go back. I have little interest in playing in it but I am massively looking forward to watching it.”
During a glittering career, Edwards was at the helm for England’s crowning glory in 2009 as well as playing a leading role in the development of the women’s game.
The batsman lifted the trophy at the 2009 World Cup in Australia after a four-wicket win over New Zealand in the final at Sydney.
Eight years on, England embark on their bid to win the competition for a second time today with their opening group game against India at the County Ground in Derby.
Having transformed into a professional set-up since England last staged the competition in 1993, the tournament is set to break new ground in exposure for the women’s game on these shores.
Edwards said: “The fact that the players are being paid to play now means the standard has been increased and the media are much more supportive of the women’s game, as are the general public. They don’t compare it to the men’s game. It is a separate game. They’re seeing it for what it is and, therefore, promoting it in the right way.
“Women’s sport in general has really taken off since 2012. There’s been a massive increase in media attention and how we all perceive women’s sport. It’s now done in a positive way.
“The players are fitter, stronger and they hit the ball further. Off the field, teams are run professionally. These girls are training full time so they should be better. Gone are the days when we had to do a full day’s work and then go to training.
“These girls are so lucky and completely deserve it. The game’s changed dramatically in the way they go about their cricket and the way the game is run.”
Irrespective of England success or failure, Edwards believes the tournament will only be good in producing role models in schools and cricket clubs across the country.
“It’s the biggest platform we have had to promote the game,” she continued. “Whether England win or lose this World Cup, there will be a legacy from it just from what I can feel from around this tournament. People are going to be aware of it. It’s going to be on TV. It’s a great opportunity and, if England win, it will put the icing on the cake.”
Yorkshire stars Katherine Brunt, Lauren Winfield and Danielle Hazell form part of an impressive England squad, led by Heather Knight, and one that features the return of wicketkeeper Sarah Taylor, who took a one-year break from the sport after suffering from anxiety.
England have been in impressive form during the warm-up fixtures ahead of the eight-team competition with convincing wins over West Indies, India and Sri Lanka.
They will play seven group games with the top four teams progressing to the semi-finals at Bristol and Derby. The showpiece will then be held at Lord’s where more than 13,000 tickets have already been sold.
“They have a real chance,” said Edwards. “Certainly having seen how they have been playing in the warm-up games, they seem to be playing with a lot of confidence.
“Australia will go in just slight favourites because of their record in the last 18 months but England have every chance.
“The England girls will love playing in front of the big crowds and love playing on TV. It won’t faze them at all. We have the best bowling attack in the competition. That will stand us in good stead. If we are going to be successful, the bowlers will play a big part in it.”
Edwards spent 10 years in charge of the national team, leading them in 220 matches, while breaking numerous batting records at the top of the order.
Her success made Robinson’s decision to chop her from the national set-up without consultation all the more surprising.
It sent a shockwave through the sport, and to Edwards’s life as she knew it – she duly retired from the international scene.
Edwards reflected: “I didn’t really have a decision. It wasn’t really a meeting. I was told the future was without me and I had to take it on board. I felt at that time, the best thing was to retire. I had no other choice.
“I’m not going to go away from the fact the first three months were really difficult. Suddenly, it felt like someone had died.
“I went to Australia for the winter and it was probably the best thing I ever did. I got away from England and English cricket. I had no worries in the world and had time to reflect. I came back and had moved on. I needed that time away and it worked in my favour.”
Since retiring, Edwards has taken up commentating duties for BBC and Sky Sports, while mixing ambassadorial roles at charity Chance to Shine with the domestic cricket circuit at home county Hampshire, where she still plays.
“You just have to get on with it,” said Edwards. “If someone had spoken to me 18 months ago about retirement, I would have been openly scared and thought ‘what am I going to do?’ Because it happened so suddenly, you have to adapt and adjust to what has happened. Now I am a free spirit. I can do what I want. I didn’t realise there was a whole new world out there that I am now enjoying.
“Now I am so much more relaxed. My mum hit the nail on the head, she said ‘when you come home now, you are here.’ When I went back before, I wasn’t there, I wasn’t engaging.
“I realised how much it consumed me and at some times made me unhappy, but you don’t realise when you’re in it because you want to play cricket for England.
“When I retired, the overwhelming feeling I got from all the messages was that I was proud about where the game had come. I didn’t care about my stats, I played to win.
“You always want to leave a sport in a better place than you find it, I did that without doubt.”
Charlotte Edwards was attending an event as part of Yorkshire Tea National Cricket Week. The week is an initiative by the cricket charity Chance to Shine. Discover more at chancetoshine.org<http://chancetoshine.org>