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Charlotte Edwards talks to My Icon on England captaincy and growth of women's game

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Ahead of International Women's Day on March 8, former England cricket captain Charlotte Edwards recalls the difficult experience of having to play boys cricket as a youngster.

Ahead of International Women's Day on Friday, March 8, former England Women's cricket captain Charlotte Edwards tells My Icon about her childhood playing in boys' teams, speaks of the influence of her dad and her pride at being a role model for young girls in the game.

    After becoming the youngest ever England debutant at the time, aged 16 in 1996, Charlotte Edwards went on to enjoy a 20-year international career, with 10 of those as captain of her country - leading her side on 220 occasions, to three Ashes wins over Australia, and to a World Cup and World T20 double in 2009.

    The legacy she left behind upon her international retirement in 2016 is clear to see, with Heather Knight's England reclaiming the World Cup in front of a sellout Lord's crowd a year later. Scenes that would have been unimaginable to a young Edwards.

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    Some of the best moments from the 2017 Women's World Cup which culminated in a dramatic win for England over India.

    "I'm very proud of what I've achieved in my career. It's great now that I can be that role model for young girls.

    "Steffi Graf was my role model growing up. So it's one of my proudest things; as an England cricketer you have that responsibility of being that role model that I never had. It's something I, and the rest of the England team, take very seriously to hopefully influence and inspire as many girls as we can."

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    Watch the new series of 'My Icon'

    Lacking in the exposure of such figures during her youth, Edwards took her greatest inspiration from her dad.

    "My first introduction to cricket was going to watch games where my dad was playing. I loved being there, being part of it and, on one particular day, someone got injured and he ran over to me at the scorebox and asked 'have you got your whites with you?'

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    "I always packed my whites and my bat and so I ran off, put them on. I was terrified, but I also loved every single minute of it.

    "I lived on a farm growing up, so there wasn't much to do, other than play cricket or football. We'd often get some of the children from the village to come up and bowl at us, me and my brother, because we just loved batting.

    "I also used to put a ball in a sock, hang it off the washing line and just keep hitting it - that's what my dad told us we needed to do to try and play straight. He always used to say, 'you need to hit in the V'. 'Hit along the ground, you can't get out'. That stuck with me."

    International success

    Charlotte Edwards of England hits out during the Second Women's Test Match between England and South Africa held on August 20, 2003
    Image: Charlotte Edwards got off to a fine start in her international career

    It was just there, in the back garden hitting a cricket ball, where Edwards was when she got the news of her debut England call-up in 1996.

    "It was a Saturday evening and my mum came out and said there was someone on the phone for me.

    "It as Anne Gordon, the then chairwoman of selectors for the England women's team. She said I'd been selected for the last Test against New Zealand at Guildford. I thought it was a joke because I was not expecting it. I knew I was in the reckoning but, to finally get the call, I remember getting off the phone and I just didn't know what to do."

    Far from being daunted, Edwards took to international duty with aplomb, something she credits to her grounding in the game of the tough environment of boys' cricket.

    "My first few years of playing for England couldn't have gone any better really. I scored a hundred in my second ODI against South Africa - I see at the pictures now, and I look so young, jumping up and down on the spot when I got my hundred. You just don't know how you're going to react.

    "I went to India for my first World Cup in 1997, and I held the world-record score [173 vs Ireland] for all of two hours I think before Belinda Clarke got 229 against Denmark. And then in 1999 I scored my first Test hundred against India. It all happened so quickly.

    Charlotte Edwards (left) and Jane Cassar of England leave the field of play after scoring an unbeaton 173 and 50 respectively
    Image: Charlotte Edwards (left) walks off after scoring a then record 173 in the 1997 Women's World Cup

    "I always say that playing international cricket after having played boys cricket from an early age, seemed like a doddle really.

    "Every time I walked out to the wicket, I was being judged. People didn't think girls played cricket, so they were always intrigued to see how I'd fare against the boys. The whole ordeal around playing in those games, not knowing where to get changed - I've changed in every possible place within a cricket pavilion - it was quite uncomfortable at times, quite daunting.

    "But playing the boys was also incredible; I was one of the best players, I captained the team."

    "My Dad was just about to pass away, and I remember the last words I said to him was that I'd been named England captain."
    Charlotte Edwards

    Captaincy pride

    England captain Charlotte Edwards poses with the team and the trophy after their 10-8 victory in the multi-format Ashes series in Australia
    Image: Charlotte Edwards claimed three Ashes series wins during her 10 years as England captain

    It would be just the beginning of Edwards' captaincy career, with her serving as England skipper for a decade. Edwards first led the side on a tour of India in 2005, filling in for the absent Clare Connor, before then taking over the reins officially a year later during an emotional time in her life.

    "This is what I'd always wanted to do. And it was the right time for me, I'd been playing for about 10 years internationally.

    "But it was also a hard time. My dad was just about to pass away, and I remember the last words I said to him was that I'd been named England captain.

    "I know he'd have been very proud of the fact I captained my country, and for 10 years, over 200 games. I look back on that time in my career and it is what I'm proudest of."

    Charlotte Edwards leads the 2009 World Cup celebrations
    Image: Charlotte Edwards leads the celebrations after captaining England to victory in the 2009 Women's World Cup

    Edwards' tenure in charge brought about Ashes wins in 2008, 2013 and 2014 and those two tournament triumphs in 2009, while she was named as one of the five Wisden Cricketers of the Year in 2014 - just the second English women's cricketer to be honoured, after Claire Taylor - and was appointed MBE, and then CBE, for her services to cricket.

    "I felt very weird around the MBE and CBE. You're so used to doing everything as a team, and to be singled out individually to win an award, can make you feel quite uncomfortable.

    "But the CBE is probably the day I remember most fondly, because the Queen was there to present it to me.

    "I was quite nervous; my mum came with me, my auntie and uncle. As the national anthem played as she walked into the room, I was like 'Oh my God.' It was the best day ever.

    "I remember her talking about how badly the men's team were doing at the time - they'd just come back from a 5-0 loss in Australia, and the women had won. I quite liked that line."

    Don't miss the My Icon Sportswomen special, available on Sky Sports Mix - the whole series will also be available On Demand, as are all the episodes from previous series.

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