England captain: The job nobody can prepare for

In the second part of our interview with Charlotte Edwards, Casey Stoney and Katy McLean, the skippers tell Robin Scott-Elliot about the pride responsibility and difficulty of leading the country
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This is the first time you have sat down together – all the captains of the big three – and talked leadership. What sort of a captain are each of you, the "once more unto the breach" type?

Katy McLean Yes I'm probably like that, a bit of a shouter.

Casey Stoney Me too.

Charlotte Edwards I'm pretty hard. I don't shout but they know who is in charge.

CS When people need a kick up the backside you give it to them, especially in training where you want to create a competitive environment. But there is no point in me saying you need to do this and not doing it myself – you have to lead by example. I'm not afraid not to be liked either if that's what's necessary.

It must change your relationship with other players, people who are your friends?

CE You don't realise they [the other players] are looking at every single move you make. I've had to drop mates sometimes. It can be hard but they know I'm doing the best for the team. You have to be thick-skinned.

KM It can be quite lonely sometimes. It's a big step that nobody prepares you for.

CS I was lucky as I was vice-captain for a while but it's different when you make that step up, although I don't have half the responsibility that you do Charlotte.

CE When you are away for five or six weeks, it's a long time to keep everyone happy. That's probably the hardest part, making sure that they all get on. I feel like a social worker at times.

CS Sometimes you just want to go in your room and shut the door…

CE Then you get a knock on the door and you're like 'oh no, what's this about'. But they need to feel they can approach me. And then you have got to perform – I have to open the batting and I've got to score runs.

You can separate the responsibilities of captain from your responsibilities as a player?

CE Yes. I'm there to do a job – to score runs and if I do we'll be successful. In cricket you can make more of an impact individually. You're an individual in a team sport.

CS That's massive, performing well. If you keep performing well, hopefully you get others to strive to match your performance. If you are not performing then that makes it more difficult. You're not always confident. Sometimes you have to put a front on.

CE I agree. I have gone through times when I have not scored runs for England. You have got to be the same person [with the your team-mates] you were when you got a hundred. Consistency of behaviour [as a captain] is important.

Has the role changed you, or are you natural leaders?

CE I think I am quite natural. I've always wanted to do it.

CS I've been a captain at every club I've been at since I was 20 so there has always been something in me. I didn't realise how much pressure came with [captaining England] – but it's pressure I enjoy.

KM I'm quite outspoken and if there's something I don't agree with I will end up saying it. There have been times when I felt I want to be in the middle of my friends but you think I can't right now because I am captain. That's always there.

CE You have to be self-aware and aware of others. But be you. Don't try and be someone you are not.

So what does it feel like to lead out your country?

KM It was my ultimate dream. I've always wanted to captain my country, as ridiculous as that might sound. The only thing that would be better – the pinnacle – would be to lift a World Cup as England captain.

CE You feel 10 foot tall. When I walk through the Long Room at Lord's [she puffs up her cheeks and exhales slowly]. There are some feelings I never thought you would experience –I've been fortunate enough to lift the World Cup.

Describe that?

CE Relief! I had played for so long – it was my fourth World Cup. You know what it makes you feel? It makes you want to do it again.

CS You do stand taller. I could burst with pride when we walk out the tunnel, especially when we were at Wembley [against Brazil in the Olympics].

CE I well up. When the national anthem comes on I'm there going: 'God, don't cry'!

CS I end up clenching my jaw. I walked out at Wembley going: 'job to do, don't get emotional.' You think if I start singing I will cry and that's no good! You could burst with pride, honestly. It's the best feeling – for all the crap you might get, the down moments, the stress, it's all worth it when you walk out on that pitch.