'How do we fit it all in?'
They've done everything the men have done ... and more: squeezing in being full-time students or workers on top of being full-time international athletes. Even their new captain Charlotte Edwards is at a loss to explain how all the players find the balance. "I will be quite glad when it comes to December to come to a break," she says. "It's hard work. I sometimes think to myself: `How do we fit it all in?'"
But fit it in they must and, fresh from stepping off the Ashes bus, they will soon be boarding a plane for their six-week tour of Sri Lanka and India which kicks off in early November. Edwards says that playing India in India will be the greatest test of her ten-year international career. "It's my biggest tour," she says, "especially in the one-dayers against India. That will be up there with the Ashes. We will have to play very good cricket."
The enforced absence of the usual captain Clare Connor, through an ankle injury won't help. "It's not ideal," Edwards admits, "but we've got a strong team. I'm very, very excited about being captain, but I would prefer it to be in different circumstances, obviously.
"It's finally sunk in that I'm going to do it. I've got myself a diary and I need it! It's important to set the winning tone and get the girls thinking on my wavelength. Captaincy is not something new to me - I've done it for warm-up games and Super Fours - but it is something I've always wanted to do."
The transition should be smooth. Edwards has the force of personality, allied to swathes of experience to make a success of captaincy. She has the backing of Connor, too, and, at times, it's like talking to the same person. "Tactically," Connor says, "we are quite similar." "Connie and I are the same tactically," chimes Edwards, in an entirely separate interview. "I'm absolutely gutted," admits Connor of not touring. "We are all gutted for her," echoes her stand-in.
The India leg begins with the Test; scheduling which makes sense given the importance placed on ODIs in the women's game. "We have got try to get time in the middle before the one-dayers," says Edwards. "We always love playing Test cricket, though. And it will be tough - it's in Delhi."
England will have a week beforehand to adjust to subcontinental conditions, when they play the two one-dayers in Sri Lanka, matches which they should win comfortably. It's the first time that England have toured Sri Lanka - "It's new territory and I'm looking forward to seeing what the grounds are like" - while the sides have played each other only three times since Sri Lanka joined the international stage in 1986.
England won all three matches convincingly; Edwards played in two of them, and made fifties in both. The latest duel came earlier this year in the World Cup in South Africa, where Sri Lanka were skittled for 70; none of their batsmen made double figures. "The scoreline didn't help them much," Edwards says with understatement. "They are a good bowling unit. Their batting is quite raw - they go for their shots, but on their day they could come off. They field well. I'm sure in own country they will be a force to be reckoned with. But it's important to start our tour in a winning way."
It will be an important time for two players in particular. Caroline Atkins and Laura Harper have been called into the squad to replace Connor and the recently retired Clare Taylor. Both will vie for the vacant No 4 slot: Atkins, 24, will have the edge in pure batting stakes; but 21-year-old Harper offers an additional spin option, and could get the nod, as Edwards hints: "Connie not playing gives Laura an opportunity to shine and she is chomping at the bit.
"It will be hard for both her and Caroline to come into a very, very successful England side having been out in the wilderness. It's a big tour for them both. But all the girls are excited. Cricket is the in-thing and we want to keep it there."
Jenny Thompson is assistant editor of Cricinfo