By Rob Barnett
Charlotte Edwards would never have dreamed of being named as one of Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the Year when she started her England career in 1996.
Edwards, now 34 and an MBE, has achieved everything in the women’s game, whose rise in stature has by no coincidence grown dramatically throughout her career.
It is a far cry from when she made her international debut as a 16-year-old in a drawn Test with New Zealand at Guildford, Surrey.
That was the first of 277 England caps, the latest of which came in Sunday’s World Twenty20 final versus Australia at Dhaka.
Although Edwards was on the losing side three days ago, she led England to victory at the inaugural tournament in 2009 just three months after captaining her country to World Cup glory.
She has also been an Ashes winner five times, overseeing the latter four triumphs. The penultimate one of those came last season, the period on which the Wisden award is judged, as England prevailed in the first multi-format Ashes series.
The top-order batter made fifties in the first two one-day internationals as her side came from behind to regain the urn.
Edwards, ever the team player, chose to see the Wisden honour, which was announced today, as a reflection of the interest in women’s cricket that has increased massively since her former England team-mate Claire Taylor won the award in 2009.
Speaking exclusively to ecb.co.uk on her return from Bangladesh yesterday, Edwards said: “Not only is it great recognition for me, but it’s fantastic for the game that again a female player has been named.
“It shows how much the game is growing and how the profile has risen in the time I’ve been playing.
“These kind of awards I would not have dreamt of winning when I was starting my career when I was 16.
“To think of all the players that have come before me who have won these awards, it makes me feel very proud.”
Edwards has been recognised along with England batsman Joe Root, who hit his first two international hundreds last summer, Ryan Harris and Chris Rogers who starred for Australia during the Investec Ashes and Shikhar Dhawan, by far the top run-scorer in India’s Champions Trophy title.
Alongside those stars, Edwards added: “I feel very honoured to be named as the second female player to win the award. I think it hasn’t quite sunk in really. I’ve known for a while, but I’ve not been able to say anything.”
Honoured and delighted to be named as one of the @WisdenAlmanack 5 cricketers of the year. Thank you to everyone for their kind messages.
— Charlotte Edwards (@Lottie2323) April 9, 2014
Although the award was specifically for her achievements last summer, Edwards took the opportunity to reflect on the last year when England won the Ashes home and away.
“The two Ashes wins have been two of the biggest highlights of my career and certainly winning in Australia is one of my greatest achievements as a captain, and scoring the runs to win the Ashes is a moment I’ll never forget,” she said.
“It’s been an unbelievable 12 months for us as a team. It’s just a shame we couldn’t top that off on Sunday and win another global event. That just wasn’t to be and I’m still very proud of the 12 months we’ve had. To contribute to that and get that kind of recognition is fantastic.”
Taylor, the previous women’s winner, and Edwards are perhaps the best batters the women’s game has produced.
They have not played together since the former retired in 2011, but they will line up alongside one another for MCC against a ‘rest of the world XI’ next month.
“I haven’t seen much of her but I’m playing with her in an MCC game on May 19 so it’ll be great to take the field with Claire again, and especially at Lord’s against a rest of the world team,” Edwards added.
“I think that’ll be a great occasion. She undoubtedly deserved her award. I remember it really well and to think I’ve managed to win the award is unbelievable really.”