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The Charlotte Edwards story


Sixteen years since a young girl merely 17 then, called Charlotte Edwards, lit up the Hyderabad cricket stadium, with a scintillating knock of 173 in the World Cup. At an age, when most of us can't even imagine playing first class cricket, she with her prodigious talent, took to international cricket like a duck to water.

The scintillating knock of 173 that Edwards made seems light years ago now. Edwards, 33, is now a tour veteran. But age doesn't seem to matter for the ageless Charlotte Edwards. Her recent knock of 137 runs of 88 balls against a formidable foe like the Kiwis proved that.

But it wasn't always this easy for the great lady. Yes, cricket was in Edwards's blood, as she grew up watching her father and uncle play for the Ramsey cricket club. The problem for Edwards was; as only a few girls played cricket, she had to play alongside boys.

There is an interesting story of Edwards dreaming to play for England's men's team. Poor lass, she didn't even know that England's women's team too played internationals. Only when she watched the women's World Cup Final between England and New Zealand in '93 did she realise that England's women's team also exists.

What makes her story even more fascinating is; Charlotte Edwards went on to captain the under 16 Huntingdonshire's boys team. During that time, she played with future first class cricketers like Scott Newman and Will Jefferson. There were boys, who were said to be annoyed of her playing for the boys' team, and that resulted in them bowling beamers at her.

Now, it doesn't take rocket science to work out that a prodigious talent like Edwards would be fast-tracked into the national set-up. At the tender age of 12, she was representing England under-19s. Mortals like us; would be thinking of how to finish our homework at that age.

For a 16 year old Edwards the big break came in 1996 when she was selected to play for England against New Zealand. The cricketing world though, took notice of her talents, when Edwards scored a century, in a one-day game against South Africa at Taunton in 1997.

This was followed by the record-breaking effort of 173 not out against Ireland in the 50-over World Cup, in '97. Unfortunately for her, the record was broken the same-day by the Australian, Belinda Clark, as she made 229 not out against Denmark. All those statistical geeks would always remember that interesting fact.

In 1999, Edwards showed her class against the touring Indians in a Test match, with a well measured century at Shenley. I do remember, the veteran English journalist, Tedd Corbett saying; "she will become a legend of the game." However, during that time, Edwards suffered a career threatening cruciate ligament injury, while playing hockey. Few critics even reckoned that she may never play again. Edwards though, with hard-work and determination rose like a phoenix from the ashes. She didn't just recover from that terrible injury, but also became the most capped one-day player in years to come. In a way, critics can help you out, as they indirectly force you to work that much harder to prove them wrong!

By 2006, Edwards was appointed as the full-time captain of England. It was yet another feather in the cap of this ace cricketer from Huntingdon. Edwards seemed to be a born captain. Under her stewardship, England retained the Ashes twice and in 2009, won the 50-over World Cup and World T20. The way England conquered the rest of the cricketing world in '09 definitely helped in raising the profile of women's cricket in UK.

Edwards's former teammate, Claire Taylor states, "She is a great captain. And there are a couple of reasons why. 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."

Critics will tell you, a captain has to lead the team from the front. And Charlotte Edwards definitely led from the front in the Ashes 2010/11. England found themselves in dire straits, in the one-off Ashes match at Sydney. But like a true gladiator, Edwards stood tall amidst the ruins, and made a fine hundred.

Australians had enough variety in their attack to trouble any opposition. The fast bowling sensation Perry and her partner in crime, Farrell made early inroads. They were well supported by a couple of parsimonious spinners in; Stahlekar and Nitschke. So, Edwards had to use the wealth of all her experience to tackle the girls from Down Under. The magnificent innings by her went in vain, as they were crushed by seven wickets. Edwards though, showed her mettle in adverse circumstances.

In 2013, this legend of the game will yet again captain the English team in the upcoming World Cup. As England are defending champions, there will be that extra added pressure on them. Charlotte Edwards or popularly known as "Lottie" though, seems to be made up of Toledo steel. Make no mistake, as Edwards and her band of girls will fight tooth and nail to defend their crown in India.

England Women's team may win or lose this World Cup, but Edwards will be special. More than the runs she scores and wickets she takes, Charlotte Edwards' greatest contribution to cricket will always be the fact that she inspired many young girls to dream big.

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