OPINION: Are Questions Over Edwards’ Future as Captain Justified?

In the wake of England’s poor performance this Ashes series, which culminated in the final T20 at Cardiff yesterday, The Independent’s Stephen Brenkley has directly called for Charlotte Edwards to step down as England captain.

In a piece published this morning, Brenkley states:

“The time has come when Edwards…must think seriously of letting somebody else have a go. No, more than that, she should step aside as England captain.”

“England now probably need a younger player who is more at home with the rhythms of the new, modern women’s game and may indeed have ideas about how its rapid progress can be accelerated still further.”

While Brenkley’s critique is not unjustified – England should leave no stone unturned in their analysis of what went wrong this series – he comprehensively fails to answer the key question: If Edwards steps down as captain, who is there that could replace her?

Of the 18 centrally-contracted players, only six are senior enough to be plausible candidates to take over: Anya Shrubsole, Katherine Brunt, Heather Knight, Sarah Taylor, Jenny Gunn and Lydia Greenway.

Shrubsole and Brunt are probably out of the running simply because it is widely recognised that it is a difficult ask for a bowler, especially a pace bowler, to both captain and bowl effectively.

Heather Knight is the most obvious candidate for the job. She was made vice-captain just over a year ago, prior to England’s series against India last summer, and it is no secret that in the eyes of the England management this was done with the intention of her taking over from Edwards at some point in the future.

But is now really the right time? Knight has had a poor series with the bat. She has made scores of 12, 38, 38, 14, 5, 4 and 1*. Adding to the pressure on her by making her step up to the captaincy would surely be extremely counter-productive.

The same could be said of Sarah Taylor, whose inconsistency with the bat is a real concern for England going forward. The burden of keeping wicket combined with coming in at number 3 is surely enough to be going on with. Taylor may be brilliant behind the stumps, but she is no future England captain.

Jenny Gunn is the only player bar Edwards amongst the contracted 18 who has ever captained England, having done the job on three previous occasions, most recently in West Indies in 2013. Yet she has played only two of the seven games this series, and in any case at 29 must surely be in the autumn of her career. The same could be said of Lydia Greenway (now aged 30), who alone of England’s top 5 has had a reasonable series with the bat.

Gunn or Greenway would be interim captains at best, and one thing England do not need in this crucial two-year rebuilding period leading up to the 2017 World Cup is a stop-gap captain.

A final point: Brenkley suggests that, while Edwards should step down as captain, she “still has plenty to offer as a batsman”. Indeed. Yet sources close to Edwards have made it plain in the past that she simply will not carry on for England purely as a batsman. If she retires as captain, England lose her altogether. Considering her contribution this series – she has outscored every batsman in the side bar Greenway and Natalie Sciver – not to mention over the last few years more generally, can they really afford to do that?

It is right and proper for a full post-mortem of this series to be carried out by the ECB; England certainly have not covered themselves with glory. But to get rid of the England captain when there is no one who is currently capable of replacing her would be the height of irresponsibility.

CRICKETher believes that Edwards should stay firmly where she is.

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4 thoughts on “OPINION: Are Questions Over Edwards’ Future as Captain Justified?

  1. Brenkley seems typical of the regular newspaper journalists commenting on women’s cricket. He is assuming that, like with men’s cricket, there is a host of ready replacements for the role waiting behind the scenes. And the captain has to be held responsible. He talks about what he knows – which isn’t much. This is because it is probably more the management and selectors who made mess of this series, not Edwards. Edwards batting does seem to be on a slow decline – I wonder if we will see the heights of 2014 again – but it is more her running that is the main issue on the field. However it appears that we can accommodate the “lack of athleticism” of certain players including Edwards which has been mentioned by many journalists. This is a red herring and non-issue in my view. England are more than capable in the field and one thing the Loughborough conditioning definitely has achieved is improvement here, and in injury resistance for the bowlers.

    You’re right to ask who else could do the job. It’s difficult to suggest a suitable candidate. For me it would be Brunt (whose batting is on the up these days) or Greenway. The others are not in form themselves, would have logistical problems, or are in and out of the team.

    The series loss was always going to prompt criticism from different commentators with varying levels of knowledge. If Edwards were to go, the only way of bringing it about that I can see would be to convince her that it was the only option. At the moment, and probably for the next couple of years I can see Edwards continue and that would be best for the England side, especially whilst we undergo the “review” that the ECB/Connor has been mentioning. If there is upheaval, we need a few anchors in place to keep the ship afloat.

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  2. This is a simple equation.
    A captain must be certain of their place – this counts out Greenway (dropped in NZ this year), Gunn (dropped more than selected) and Knight (should be dropped if her batting doesn’t improve and perhaps would have been dropped if her name was ‘Jones’ or ‘Wyatt’ or ‘Elwiss’ rather than ‘Knight’).
    Taylor as captain would be a scream and interviews would be interesting but she’s got enough on her plate coping with batting and keeping.
    That leaves the Barnsley express and Somerset swinger but you’ve nailed these two “widely recognised that it is a difficult ask for a bowler, especially a pace bowler, to both captain and bowl effectively.”

    No, Lottie ain’t going anywhere soon.

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  3. Whilst it’s fair comment to ask “Who else is there?”, by the same token Charlotte Edwards will not go on for ever. The next World T20 is round the corner, then we will have a World Cup in less than two years from now, and by that time we will be on the verge of the next Ashes. Even if Lottie is still going strong by then (and there’s no reason why she shouldn’t, due allowance being made for the vagaries of form and fitness that affect every player), who is to say that will be any more opportune a moment for a change at the top?
    The merry-go-round continues and at some stage a plunge will have to be taken on a new skipper. Maybe a name will emerge from the pack – Sciver seems potentially to have the right sort of character to me, although Knight is obviously the front runner at the moment – and there is always the possibility of our own Lanning appearing on the scene with the talent to carry her through, aided by senior players, much as the likes of Blackwell and others have surely done.
    For now, though, I have to agree that Lottie is the right person for the job.
    One other point – could anybody imagine a journalist of Brenkley’s standing (whatever you think of his views on this subject) penning this column even two years ago? That in itself is an illustration of the strides made in the game, particularly this Summer, despite the outcome of the series. Better to have the scrutiny, whether you think it misguided or not, than indifference.

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  4. Pingback: OPINION: Edwards Should Stay But England Need Change | CRICKETher

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