England cricket legend Charlotte Edwards: I’d love to see a fully professional Southern Vipers team in five years
Former England captain Charlotte Edwards still pinches herself when reflecting on the steps taken to expand women’s cricket - and is relishing the thought of what can be achieved in the next five years.
The Southern Vipers coach began her illustrious 20-year playing career in the amateur era but she was among the first recipients of a central contract in 2014 as part of the England and Wales Cricket Board’s pledge to reinvest in the women’s game.
Chief executive Tom Harrison insisted last September the women’s game was ‘fundamental’ to the ECB’s future and that was underlined recently when full-time domestic contracts were awarded to 41 female cricketers.
Edwards, who last Thursday became the first female president of the Professional Cricketers’ Association, is hopeful there are more in the pipeline, with the Vipers head coach adamant the deals are already having an impact.
She said: ‘Working day-in, day-out with the players you see the massive difference it’s made already. In the six months these girls have had contracts, I’ve seen how much improvement they’ve made.
‘We’re hoping for more. In the next five years I’d love to see a fully professional Southern Vipers team and every region around the country. That for me is the next step for women’s domestic cricket.
‘The women’s game just keeps growing and growing, I have to pinch myself most days and think ‘where’s it going to go to next’? I think it’s the biggest growth area in cricket.
‘We really are seeing the benefits of that kind of investment and I think in the next three to five years, who knows where the game can go and how many young girls will be playing around the world and around this country?’
While Edwards, who skippered England to a limited-overs World Cup double in 2009, hailed the ECB’s continued efforts to shine a spotlight on the women’s game, she is fearful that some countries are starting to fall behind.
As well as expressing concern that some international teams have not played since the T20 World Cup last March because of the pandemic, Edwards pointed out the one-sided nature of some recent contests is unpalatable.
However, she is optimistic a bumper next 18 months, featuring England’s defence of their 50-over World Cup crown as well as cricket’s return to the Commonwealth Games, will sharpen the focus of some governing bodies.
She said: ‘We’re doing a fantastic job in England, the worry for me is globally. To think that some of the teams have not played a fixture in the last 12 months and their male counterparts have is really disappointing.
‘We need a strong eight teams playing international women’s cricket. I’m getting fed up of watching games that are just not competitive and it’s not a great spectacle for women’s cricket.
‘But with the World Cup 12 months away now, hopefully boards will look to prioritise women’s cricket in the lead up to that and the Commonwealth Games next year.’
Edwards has succeeded Graham Gooch at the PCA for an initial two-year term, a role she is looking forward to juggling alongside her Vipers duties, while she will also lead the Ageas Bowl-based Southern Brave in The Hundred this summer.
The 41-year-old added: ‘When I was asked, I felt like it was the right time for me to get involved.
‘I’m proud of what I’ve achieved but I’m really excited about what the future brings for the game. I’m very proud of where the women’s game sits right now and this is another example of us moving the game forward.
‘I really want to give back. There are so many people who have finished playing and come on hard times. To think we can help past players as well as current players, it’s going to be a rewarding role over the next few years.’
Edwards has a busy summer in front of her as she looks to win more trophies with Vipers, as well as coaching the Brave franchise women’s team.
She first captained the team to the inaugural Kia Women’s Super League T20 title in 2016, and two years later skippered Hampshire to top spot in Division 1 of the 50-over Royal London Cup.
Edwards then coached the Vipers to the inaugural 50-over Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy last September.