Edwards on the front foot for girls' cricket
Charlotte Edwards, the England Women's captain, has said that a new initiative launched to increase opportunities for girls to take up cricket in school can help to provide the next generation of players for the national side.
Edwards is involved as a coach and mentor with Chance to Shine, the programme set up in 2005 by the Cricket Foundation charity to increase participation in cricket among children, and was at Lord's on Wednesday for the launch of Girls on the Front Foot, which aims to raise £250,000 in support of coaching and awareness for girls' cricket.
"Definitely, the game needs girls coming through and it would be great to have someone who got into cricket that way reach the England team," Edwards said. "It's really good for the girls to meet England players at coaching sessions and then they can go and look us up on scorecards afterwards."
Edwards said that the initiative was important to help raise awareness of the game among girls, with several members of the England team combining coaching in schools with their training schedules. The Girls on the Front Foot board features women from business and sport, including Edwards, the ECB's head of women's cricket, Clare Connor, Tesco executive director Lucy Neville-Rolfe and Sky News weather presenter Nazaneen Ghaffar. Since its foundation, over 620,000 girls have participated in clubs run by Chance to Shine, with the number of girls playing cricket in school rising from 25,049 in 2006 to 156,577 in 2011.
"I am delighted to be involved with the Chance to Shine girls' board," Edwards said. "It is amazing to see this collection of high-powered women come together for such a worthy cause. In my dual role as England captain and Chance to Shine coaching ambassador it is fantastic to go into schools around the country and see girls playing cricket."
"I grew up on a potato farm and I'd probably still be there picking potatoes if it wasn't for cricket. Now it's so accessible for girls, you don't have to stumble across a women's pathway, there's a very clear pathway for girls wanting to play cricket. But it's more than that, we're developing young people here and that's just as important."
Despite her increased involvement with Chance to Shine, Edwards, 32, has not yet turned her thoughts to retirement and hopes to lead England in regaining the World Twenty20 title in Sri Lanka later this year. England are also the Women's World Cup holders, with the next tournament to be held in India next year. "While I'm still happy with my game, I will definitely continue playing," Edwards said.
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo