When the England team returned from the T20 World Cup in India a little over a month ago, they had no inkling of events which were shortly to unfold, culminating in Charlotte Edwards’ tearful retirement at Lords today. The players were under no illusions – they knew they had let themselves down and there were “hard yards” ahead to improve their batting, their fielding, and most especially their general levels of fitness. But nonetheless, everyone still expected Edwards to remain at the wheel today… tomorrow… and through to the World Cup in 2017.
Coach Mark Robinson was, however, starting to come to the conclusion that something a bit more radical than a few extra trips to the gym might be necessary if England were going to reverse their slow decline.
Over the following few weeks, Robinson held a number of meetings with his boss – Clare Connor – having decided that England could only get the fresh start they needed with a new skipper at the helm.
For Edwards meanwhile, life was starting to get back to normal. Assuming that if she was going to be fired it would have been immediately, she appears to have genuinely thought her position was secure, as she prepared for the new season, getting things underway with a match-winning innings of 79 for Kent in the first round of the Women’s County Championship.
The following day, Kent played Sussex at Eastbourne. As is normal, Sussex encouraged their age-group girls to attend the game if possible, and one who did so was Ellie Robinson… accompanied by her father, Mark. During a 3 hour rain delay, with all the teams, press and spectators huddled into the tiny pavilion, Robinson warmly greeted all of his players… or rather almost all of them – there appearing to be one conspicuous exception to the general atmosphere of camaraderie.
In retrospect, it is hard to believe that this wasn’t playing on Edwards’ mind as she was bowled by Tara Norris for 1 off 5 balls in the second over.
Then, the following day, Edwards received a fateful text message from Clare Connor, the substance of which was simply: “We need to talk.”
The “talk”, Connor admitted today, was the hardest of her professional life – the pair had worked hand-in-hand for over two decades – Edwards was the person to whom Connor had handed over the England captaincy ten years previously; and it was now Connor’s duty to tell her friend that the decision had been made and that she had led England on to the field for the last time back in that semi-final in India.
But worse was to come.
Edwards understood and accepted the need for new leadership, but believed that she still had a lot to offer as a player. Indeed, why wouldn’t she? England might not have performed “as a team”, but Edwards herself had made 202 runs in the tournament (one more than Meg Lanning) including 2 fifties, at a Strike Rate of 115. She might not lead England into 2017, but she would still be there as a player!
However, her hopes were to be shattered as Robinson informed her that she was not part of his plans to rebuild the team, and she would not be considered for selection in the summer or autumn squads.
Devastated, Edwards realised that the time had come to face reality and begin the painful process of signing off. After informing Robinson and Connor of this, a press conference was hastily convened at Lords. Meanwhile, Edwards composed an email to her England teammates, which was sent yesterday evening – the first any of them were to find out about the situation.
Then, selfless to the last, she set off to attend a university awards evening in Southampton, to play her role as guest of honour; whilst unbeknown to her, the news of her retirement was sadly leaking on Twitter, achieving nothing but heaping extra indignity upon her situation.
Charlotte Edwards – an England “great” if ever there was one – deserved better than that.
We really will not see her like again.