Charlotte Edwards eyes England women's next chapter
Edwards believes the tour to India provides a "huge oppportunity" for England
By Sam Lyon
Picking a highlight of 2009 was always going to be a tough ask for Charlotte Edwards.
On the field, the England women's cricket captain guided her side to glory at the World Cup for only the second time, the World Twenty20 trophy, the retention of the Ashes and a 4-0 defeat of Australia in the NatWest Series to complete an unprecedented year of success.
Off it, she led her team to a reception at Downing Street with Prime Minister Gordon Brown and was awarded an MBE for services to sport.
And all this against the backdrop of helping the women's game reach unprecedented levels of exposure and popularity.
So the most memorable moment of the year for the 30-year-old?
"I would have to say appearing on 'A Question of Sport' is right up there," she tells BBC Sport as England prepare to end a three-month sabbatical with an eight-match tour of India. "It's something I've wanted to do ever since I was a child. It was a dream come true."
A red-letter day in anyone's book, and only a hint of a tongue in cheek from the Cambridgeshire-born batsman.
England women win World Cup
That Edwards, alongside team captain and 2003 Rugby World Cup winner Matt Dawson and 2009 Grand National winner Liam Treadwell, lost, though, goes some way to explaining why the TV appearance does not quite make it on to her final shortlist.
For losing is not something Edwards is very used to any more.
When England arrived in India on Monday ahead of five one-dayers and three Twenty20 matches, they did so as the number one ranked side in the world with a record of only three defeats in 27 one-dayers and 13 Twenty20 victories in 18 matches over the last three years.
In fact, as the world champions in all three formats of the game, one could perhaps forgive Edwards a more relaxed approach to the trip.
Not so. "If anything, I'm more motivated than ever," she says. "Last year was unbelievable - for so many reasons - but you don't stop when you reach the top. You keep going, you keep improving, and you keep ticking off the wins and the series. I just hate losing."
Part of Edwards's resolve can be explained by how far England have come. Edwards took over as captain only three years ago at a time when, by her own admission, "we couldn't win a game if we tried".
"I've been lucky enough to play for England for 14 years and I've been there from when we were rock bottom to now, at the top of the world - I'm hugely proud of that.
"The last 12 months or so have been an unbelievable period of growth on and off the field, really, and it's going to take some to beat that.
Taking nothing away from the West Indies, there were reasons we did not do ourselves justice on that tour and they are mistakes that will we not be making again
"I look back now and it's hard to believe what we have achieved, really. But there is no resting on your laurels at this level - our last tour to the West Indies showed that - and there is still a huge amount for us to achieve."
That trip to the Windies resulted in England slumping to shock 2-1 defeats in the sides' one-day and Twenty20 series last November.
Mistakes were made, then. A lack of preparation, a degree of underestimation of the opposition, an unfamiliarity with the conditions and the heat, and the absence of two key players in Sarah and Claire Taylor all contributed to the defeat.
But, says Edwards, for once taking positives out of such a defeat is not just spin.
"We learned more in that two weeks, I'd say, than in the last two years," she said. "Taking nothing away from the West Indies, there were reasons we did not do ourselves justice on that tour and they are mistakes that will we not be making again.
"We were all gutted by the defeat. But after such an incredible year hopefully it will turn out to be a blessing in disguise and be the kick up the backside we maybe needed ahead of another huge year."
The standout event of the summer ahead is the World Twenty20 - in the West Indies - while England will also travel to Australia later in the year hoping to once again retain the Ashes.
But before that is the trip to India, and a chance, says Edwards, to make more history.
"We have never before won in India and it is exactly the tour we need after the year we've had, I think," she says.
"We've been training and preparing harder than ever, because this is arguably the toughest place in the world to win. There will certainly be no resting on our laurels and, hopefully, the team can step up again just as they have been for the last year or so.
"I guess we're going to find out how good we really are."
And should they continue as they have recently and beat India, no doubt the game will continue to swell in both numbers and popularity.
"Spreading the word of women's cricket has meant as much to me as our success on the pitch, it really has.
"I feel like we've really put the game on the map," says Edwards.
"I could never have thought the last year would have gone as well as it has done on both fronts. And to get the exposure we have, well, people really know that women's cricket exists now - and that we're quite successful."
A doff of the cap for that must go to the England and Wales Cricket Board and the National Lottery, with funding from both ensuring her's is "the best supported team in the world," says Edwards.
And of course success on the pitch, means the raising of the team's profile off it, and that can only be a good thing on both a team and an individual level.
For Edwards also has one other thing on her "to-do" list.
"Hopefully I'll get back on 'A Question of Sport' and next time come away a winner. It's something I feel I should redress," she laughs.
After the year she and England have had, who would bet against it?
England will play a warm-up match against a KSCA XI in Bangalore on Wednesday ahead of the first ODI with India on Friday, 19 February.
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