Women's WC is the ultimate prize: Edwards
England captain Charlotte Edwards will be competing in her fifth successive ICC Women’s World Cup when her side takes to the field on 2 February to begin its title defence of the trophy it won in 2009 in Australia.
The defending champion will play Sri Lanka at the Wankhede Stadium on 2 February and will later face West Indies and hosts India in Group A in its bid to make the Super Sixes section of the tournament that is being played in Mumbai between 31 January and 17 February.
Edwards admitted that the ICC Women’s World Cup was the pinnacle of many player careers, saying: “For me, the ICC Women’s World Cup is the pinnacle of our careers. When I first started playing, the 50-over format was the only World Cup. This is what we are judged on.
“As international cricketers, this is the ultimate prize. The ICC Women’s World Cup is the ultimate, no doubt about it, I have been very fortunate to play in many World Cups.”
England has won the ICC Women’s World Cup three times, most recently in Sydney in 2009 when Edwards led the side to defeat New Zealand by four wickets. She believes there is no added pressure going into the event as current champions: “The current England team is used to high expectations being placed on them. Since 2009, this expectation is something we’ve had to deal with, something that has spurred us on and we relish it.
“We see the World Cup as a real challenge. Playing and winning in India will be the biggest challenge we’ve been up against in recent times, hence the reason for training so hard. We have all been fortunate to play a lot in India recently, which certainly helps. It’s a World Cup, it only comes around every 4 years, so this is a really exciting challenge for the team.”
Looking ahead to the tournament in Mumbai, the all-rounder and ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year 2008 feels England have the experience and ability to do well in India: “Experience of big games, of World Cups, is something we’ve definitely got in our group. We’ve got a lot of strength in depth, which is very important.
“Knowing the conditions will be key, and a lot of our girls have experienced Indian conditions more than once. This experience stands you in good stead and helps with preparation.”
Edwards admits that losing the ICC Women’s World Twenty20 final to Australia in October last year in Sri Lanka was a tough blow but one the side is using to motivate itself even more for the World Cup.
“First and foremost, our performance at the ICC World Twenty20 was a fantastic achievement. It’s bitterly disappointing that we didn’t win, so it’s been really nice for us to have the immediate focus on the ICC Women’s World Cup, as well as a bit of a break.
“It’s been a long summer, and we spent a long time preparing for the World Twenty20. It’s good to be back in training, we’re all really enjoying it. It’s out of season here, so we’re doing lots of indoor training. We’ll also be going to India early to prepare for the World Cup. We’re all very excited, and the disappointment from the World Twenty20 has given us an extra edge in preparation to defend our title.”
The Kent batter is excited to be going to India for the event, even though the team has a particularly tough group. Edwards admitted: “For me, India is one of the greatest places to play cricket. Cricket is a religion in India, and I’ve been lucky enough to play there numerous times. My first World Cup was in India, and this will be my fifth. I saw the World Cup in 1996 played in Eden Gardens in front of 80,000 people.
“The biggest challenge for any cricketer is to play in India and succeed, so it will be the greatest achievement if we could do so.”
With regards to her group, Edwards said: “We’re in a tough group and we know it, but we will prepare ourselves accordingly.
“India is a team that is very good in its own conditions; we’ve never won an ODI series out there. Players to watch include Mithali Raj without a doubt, she has be a supreme batter for India over many years. Goswami leads their attack, she may be best bowler in the world. And India has great spinners, they are a team against which you have to play your best.
“Sri Lanka is coming off a good tournament in the ICC World Twenty20 in their own conditions. Sub-continent conditions really suit them as a team. We haven’t played them much, but we know they are a tough team.
“The West Indies has got some of the best players in the world on their team. In the past, it’s not a team that we’ve done particularly well against. Players like Stafanie Taylor and Deandra Dottin are ‘x factor’ players who can win a game of cricket on their own.”
Finally looking at her own side, Edwards believes the ICC Women’s Twenty20 International Cricketer of the Year 2012, Sarah Taylor, will be a key player for the tournament alongside Katherine Brunt, who is currently ranked number one in the Reliance ICC Women’s Player Rankings for ODI bowlers.
“I think Sarah Taylor is obviously one of the best players in the world. It goes without saying that she will be a key player for us. Katherine Brunt as an opening bowler is someone we always look to, and who has a really good record in ODI cricket, leading the attack. Getting wickets up front is key, and she has all the skills to do that,” said Edwards.
She added: “Holly Colvin has been around the team for a number of years, and she had a good ICC World Twenty20. Being a left arm spinner, she has that extra edge, and we’ll expect big things from her. Strength and depth will be vital; the best team will have strength and depth to win. We’ve got them, and hopefully many of our players will flourish at the tournament.”