Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

The WPL has been a gamechanger for women's cricket: Mumbai Indians' Charlotte Edwards

The former England captain and the current head coach of Mumbai Indians on how far women's cricket has come and her success as a T20 franchise coach

Published: Feb 23, 2024 11:30:51 AM IST
Updated: Apr 25, 2024 06:19:50 PM IST

Charlotte Edwards, Head coach of the Mumbai Indians Image: Courtesy Mumbai IndiansCharlotte Edwards, Head coach of the Mumbai Indians Image: Courtesy Mumbai Indians
There's little that Charlotte Edwards hasn't achieved in her nearly three-decade career in cricket. The first 20 of those she spent as a cricketer and the rest as a coach. Once the youngest woman to have played for England, she also captained her national side for 10 years. During her tenure as the captain, she won two World Cups, and Ashes series, both home and away.

Once she retired from international cricket, Edwards moved on to coaching T20 franchise teams, there too building a CV as illustrious as her playing career. Be it with the Southern Vipers and the Southern Brave in the UK or the Sydney Sixers in Australia 's WBL, Edwards has cracked the code of taking the team to the top. It was no different for the inaugural edition of the WPL last year, where Edwards, the head coach of the Mumbai Indians, won her team the title.

As the second season of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) commences, Edwards joins Forbes India in an episode of Sports UnLtd podcast and shares her thoughts on cricket, women's cricket and the WPL. Edited excerpts:
Q. If you look back on the first season of the WPL, and its aftermath, what have been the big gains for women’s cricket?
The WPL was massive for women's cricket. Every eyeball in the world was on India during that time. When you're in it, you don't probably quite see that as much. When I got home, spoke to people in other countries, I realised how big a reach the tournament has had. It has been a real gamechanger for women’s cricket. Personally, it’s just amazing to be part of it and then to have the success we had as a team made it even more special. It would have to be one of the highlights of my career in terms of being there from the start, from the auction to playing and the final, playing in front of that many people. It was a pretty special month for all the players, not just Mumbai Indians.
Q. The dressing room is also a melting pot for these franchise tournaments. On one hand you have international icons like Nat Sciver-Brunt, and sharing it would be young, aspiring players like Saika Ishaque and Jintimani Kalita. As a coach, how did you handle this dressing room?
I loved every minute of it, and that's the great challenge for coaches now in all franchise teams—to bring the team together so quickly with the different characters you've got. That’s what I love about coaching—everywhere you go, everything’s slightly different. But what I will say about the international players is that they were amazing with their local domestic players and really made them flourish within the tournament because they made them feel so welcome. And it was a big strength of us as a team that there were no egos. A lot of the younger girls have gone on to bigger and better things since that tournament. For someone like Saika to get the recognition she did with India later, these are the moments as a coach that make you feel proud, and that’s what WPL has done for some of these players.
Q. Under you as the head coach, it's not just Mumbai Indians that has won the WPL. But you’ve achieved fantastic results with other teams like Sydney Sixers, Southern Vipers, and the Southers Braves, to name a few. How have you cracked the code?
I don't ever feel like I've cracked the code. I've been very lucky to have reasonable success so far in my coaching career. As a player, I always wanted to be successful and that's no different for me as a coach. But I had to do it in a slightly different way now. When I first started coaching, I found it incredibly frustrating because I had no control whatsoever on what was going on. And now, as a coach, you've just got to sit back and hopefully you've prepared the team well enough. It's giving me a few more grey hairs, but I’ve loved every minute. But one thing I'm never is, is complacent.
Q. You only get to spend a short time with franchise league teams, a month or two at the most. How do you turn them into cohesive, winning units in such a quick time?
It's pretty simple in many ways. It's building good relationships quickly and making everyone feel like they're part of the team. Whether you're the 18th player of the team or the number one player, everyone's got to feel a part of that team. I want the team to have a lot of fun. We’re in a business where results do matter, but alongside you've got to enjoy what you do. And that's one thing I really portrayed to anyone around that I'm not too serious, I don't take myself too seriously. Also, one thing I'd say to the players is that I've never forgotten how hard the game is. As a coach you should never, ever forget that because the game’s not easy. And that's why people like myself and Jhulan [Goswami] are there to support the players and know the ups and downs of what can be a tough sport when things aren't going your way.

Also read: How Jinisha Sharma is leading the charge for women's sports through WPL
Q. Just like your coaching career, you've had a similarly accomplished career as a player. As a prolific batter and a captain of the English national team, you were a trailblazer in women's cricket at a time the sport wasn't as recognised as today. What made you take it up professionally?
I grew up on a potato farm in a very small place in England called Pidley, which everyone thinks is a joke, but it isn’t. My dad played cricket, so did my brother, it was in the family. I couldn't play girls cricket when I first started because there weren't any girls’ teams and only at 12 I found out there was a girls’ team reasonably close. I played boys’ cricket until I was 12 and continued to play boys’ cricket until I was probably 18/19. I got elevated quite quickly into the England environment because at 12 I was playing for England under-19, and when I was 16 I made my England debut in a skirt, which is quite strange. I’ve had a 20-year international career where we were amateurs for the first half of it, then semi-pro, and then professional. I've watched the game evolve and grow in that time and, hence what I said to you about the WPL, that when I sat in that auction room and the first player went for Rs 3.4 crore, it was a pretty special moment just to see where I’ve come from and where we’ve gone.
Q. First as a captain and now as a coach, you’ve brought together people as the leader of a unit. What are some of the principles of leadership that you follow?
You pick up a lot of things through the playing years, through being around good leaders and bad. For a 20-year cricket career, you have good coaches, bad coaches, good captains, bad captains. And you take a lot from all of those experiences. Nowadays you can go through podcasts on some of the great leaders, but one of the best bits of advice I got when I got the England captaincy is to be yourself. That's something I want players to be within any team that I'm involved in—if you're yourself, you're more likely to succeed.   
Q. As a leader, one always runs the risks of failure. How do you overcome that fear?
If you're thinking about that, it's likely it's going to happen. Something we've got here is positive vibes… we call it Gozi vibes (after Jhulan Goswami) at the Mumbai Indians. In your planning for things, it can’t be about what can go wrong, it's about what can go right. If you're looking at things with that lens, you're more likely to have the positive outcomes. And if you have a bad day, don’t overanalyse, just make sure you review objectively and go again. T20 cricket is a cruel game at times because you can win or lose by one great performance. So don’t get too caught up in the wins and losses.