Women's Cricket World Cup set to embark on its new dawn

 
Ross McLean
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Australia v West Indies - ICC Women's World Cup India 2013 Final
Australia are the holder of the Women's World Cup after victory over West Indies in Mumbai in 2013 (Source: Getty)

Times change. When the Women’s World Cup of cricket was last held on these shores in 1993, teams resided in schools and university halls, while the final was broadcast live on BBC’s Grandstand.

There will be no free-to-air offering this time around when the tournament’s 11th edition gets underway on Saturday, but of the 31 matches to be played, 10 will be televised and the other 21 live-streamed.

It is all a far cry from the early years of the competition in the seventies, which were dogged by funding issues and meant a number of international sides had to decline invitations to participate.

Even in 1993, a £90,000 grant from the Foundation for Sport and the Arts staved off talk of the tournament being cancelled.

Fast-forward 24 years and the prize money now stands at a record $2m (£1.6m) – 10 times the figure on offer last time, at the 2013 World Cup in India. That additional financial clout means the decision review system is available for the first time.

It is safe to say the Women’s World Cup has come a long way since its inauguration in 1973, which came two years before the men’s version of the competition came into existence.

Back then, the entire competition was a round-robin affair and England brushed aside top-of-the-table Australia by 92 runs at Edgbaston to seal victory and silverware in a de facto final.

England, with a squad of 14 amateur players, were again crowned world champions in 1993 following a 67-run victory over New Zealand at Lord’s, while their first win on foreign soil came in 2009 with another triumph over the White Ferns, this time in Sydney.

Following the England and Wales Cricket Board’s decision to award central contracts in 2014, Mark Robinson’s outfit will enter this tournament as one of two full-time teams.

Australia, led by skipper Meg Lanning, are the others and the six-time winners and defending champions start as favourites to once again lift the trophy at Lord’s on 23 July.

An experienced New Zealand, who are the only other world champions aside from England and Australia, reigning World T20 winners West Indies, India, Pakistan, South Africa and Sri Lanka are also competing.

The expectation is that one of England, Australia, New Zealand and the West Indies will win, after they qualified as the top four of the ICC Women’s Championship.

Only time will tell, and while there is still progress to be made in the women’s game, it is unlikely that this World Cup will go as quietly as other incarnations perhaps have.