The Women’s Cricket World Cup will commence this weekend with two games on the opening day. One between New Zealand and Sri Lanka at the Bristol County Ground. The second will see hosts England face India at the County Ground in Derby. The beginning of the tournament runs in conjunction with the weekend of Women in Sports week. It is a great occurrence that a week created to help gender equality within sport is accompanied by a fantastic all female event in the cricketing world that directly represents everything the week stands for. Women’s Cricket has developed quickly in recent years and is paving the way for other sports to follow.
The competition will see each team face each other in the round robin stage with the four top teams moving forward to a knockout phase. During the groups and semi-finals the teams will go around four venues, The County Ground (Derby), The Bristol County Ground (Bristol), Grace Road (Leicester) and The County Ground (Taunton). All of these venues are English county grounds with a capacity ranging from 8,000 to 12,000. The two teams who fire their way to the final will have the honour of playing at the home of cricket. Lord’s is a historic venue in world cricket and seats 28,000 fans. There would be no greater achievement than representing your country in a World Cup final at such a prestigious venue.
This will be the 11th time that the competition has been held and the third time that England has been the host. The first time the Women’s World Cup was contested in 1973 and was on English soil. The format then was a seven team league with no knockout phase. England won the competition after winning five of their six fixtures. The teams at this time consisted of England, Australia and New Zealand from the current crop. The other four teams were; an international XI, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Young England (an under 25 English team). The second edition of the competition took the same format. Hosted in India the three regular teams were joined by the hosts in a four team league. Australia claimed their first title as they went unbeaten in their three games.
1982 saw the third Women’s Cricket World Cup be played in New Zealand. The same four teams plus an International XI competed for the trophy. To make the tournament longer each team played each other three times before a final which was played between England and Australia. This was the first time a knockout phase was used in the Women’s Cricket World Cup. Dickie Bird umpired the game and is still the only person to do so in both a women’s and men’s World Cup final. Australia defended their trophy beating England by three wickets in the final. Six years later the tournament went to Australia for the first time. England, Australia and New Zealand all competed again but were this time joined by Ireland and the Netherlands. The number of league fixtures was cut to two games against each opponent and England once again were beaten by Australia in the final.
England again hosted the World Cup in 1993 in which the former five teams were added to with the inclusion of the West Indies, Denmark and India to form an eight team group like we have in this years World Cup. Each team also played each other once like they will this time around. England put previous heartbreak behind them and beat New Zealand by 67 runs at Lord’s. The 1997 edition of the tournament saw the numbers stretch even further. South Africa, Pakistan and Sri Lanka added to the eight teams from the last World Cup to make eleven nations for the 1997 contest. Split into two groups and then quarter-finals the competition held in India was too long winded and the group stages seemed irrelevant as only three teams dropped out. Australia beat India in this final to regain their crown.
In 2000 New Zealand held the competition for the second time and had the format that will be in place this year. Eight teams competed with Pakistan, Denmark and the West Indies dropping out. Four teams advanced and then the knockout phase began. New Zealand claimed their first title and beat Australia in the final. South Africa hosted the next competition in 2005 which kept the same format although some of the competitors changed. Australia convincingly beat India in the final by the margin of 98 runs. The 2009 World Cup was the tournament which had the first specific qualification phase to select who would compete in the tournament. Pakistan and South Africa qualified this way and joined the top six from the previous World Cup to make up the eight teams in the competition. The contest was in Australia and saw a change to the format. Two groups of four competed with the top three going into the Super Six phase which saw all the teams compete for a place in the final. England won their third World Cup against New Zealand.
2013 in India saw the same format as the 2009 competition. Qualification was improved with only four nations being granted an automatic passage into the tournament. The qualification stage was held in Bangladesh. Australia claimed their sixth title beating the West Indies in the final.
This years tournament will be a special one. It feels as though the eight team format is back and will provide more interest in the competition. The top four ranked teams (Australia, England, New Zealand and the West Indies) qualify automatically due to their rankings. India, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Pakistan all qualified in a ten team event which took place in Sri Lanka. This proves the strength in depth of the teams that now are active in Women’s cricket around the globe.
The vast strides women’s cricket has made is great for gender equality in sport. The quality now on display and exposure that it now receives is incredible. A lot of hard work and effort has been put in to making the sport a success. The history of the Women’s World Cup has been long and the format has changed considerably. Going back to the more straight forward and smoother round robin stage leading into the knockout phase will only create more interest in this years competition. Who knows we could see a new winner crowned this year?
The Women’s World Cup is the best event to launch as the Women in Sport week comes to an end as it is a prime example of how persistence and the ability to try different things can bring magnificent results.