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Women’s cricket – a journey from amateur to professional sport

Edwards expressed her satisfaction and delight at the growth and development as well as incentives and opportunities offered to women’s cricket by the ICC

Women’s cricket – a journey from amateur to professional sport - Cricket News
"I’ve had the most amazing 20 years and now I look forward to the next 20 with real anticipation."

In the past few weeks, after announcing my retirement from international cricket, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on my career and how the landscape of the women’s game has changed. 

In 1996, I made my debut against New Zealand as a 16-year-old girl. Back then, I purchased my own England blazer as the game was totally amateur. 

Two decades on, I leave a game unrecognisable to one that I first played.

The ICC has been at the forefront of many of the positive changes that have been made to the game, but the merge of the International Women’s Cricket Council with the ICC in 2005, would prove to be one of the most significant.

The ICC has helped to grow the game globally through its significant financial support, commercial partners and promotion of women’s cricket. 

In 2009, the ICC staged its first women’s event, the ICC Women’s World Cup, in Sydney. This tournament will always be very special to me and lifting the trophy at North Sydney Oval on 22 March will remains as the highlight of my career.

In the same year, the ICC also held the first ICC World Twenty20 for both men and women in England. The semifinals and final of the women’s tournament were played as double-headers with the men - a concept that has increased the exposure of the women’s game and helped to attract new audiences.

2009 would again prove to be a ground-breaking year with the launch of the ICC Women’s Player Rankings, a brilliant system and something players and fans really connect with. 

I played the first 12 years of my career as an amateur. In 2008, I was awarded a coaching contract through the ECB and Chance to Shine, which enabled me to combine my working and playing commitments. In February 2014, I was awarded my first professional contract by the ECB.

I can honestly say it was something I never thought I’d see in my time as an England player, but was delighted that this significant step had been made. The ECB, and especially Giles Clarke (ECB Chairman at the time), has always been huge supporters of the women’s game and was now in a position to properly invest in the women’s programme.

It’s been great to see that other national cricket boards have followed the ECB’s lead, with all of the top eight countries contracting their players in some way and more money being invested into domestic and development pathway programmes. 

The launch of the ICC Women’s Championship in 2014, in my opinion, has been the best introduction from the ICC in my time as a player.

It was developed to create a more extensive and meaningful bi-lateral cricket programme and it’s definitely achieved that, for both players and fans.  It’s provided more cricket for the top eight ICC ranked teams and as a result has bridged the gap between the teams.

The last few ICC world events have shown how that the gap between the sides has been bridged. This was highlighted by the West Indies, when it won the recent ICC Women’s World Twenty20 in India.

We need the game to be strong globally and the ICC Women’s Championship enables us to make women’s cricket sustainably competitive. 

I’ve also been lucky to see first hand the great work the ICC Women’s Committee has done over the time I’ve been playing. It’s great to see so many ex-players involved in driving our game forward. Clare Connor has been instrumental at both ECB and ICC level, where she chairs the ICC Women’s Committee and represents women’s cricket at the ICC Chief Executives’ Committee.

Having someone as respected as Clare involved with the ICC is so important for the game. Her knowledge and passion for the game is so apparent and the players are fortunate to have her as their representative.

So, having reflected a lot over the last few weeks, it would be easy to think the World Cup wins and Ashes Series wins would be what I’m most proud of. I can honestly say that is not the case. 

What I’m most proud of is where the women’s game currently sits. We have some wonderful role models and a game to be really proud of. Globally, players are inspiring many girls and women to pick up a bat and a ball and that makes me very proud.

I’ve had the most amazing 20 years and now I look forward to the next 20 with real anticipation.

Charlotte Edwards has made more international appearances than any other female cricketer in the history of the game, featuring in 23 Tests (10 as captain), 191 ODIs (117 as captain) and 95 T20Is (all as captain). She scored 1,676 Test runs, while with 5,992 ODI runs, she is currently the all-time leading ODI run-scorer in women’s cricket. She has also scored 2,605 T20I runs - more than any other men’s and women’s player in the shortest format of the game.

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