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.