Not only has the standard of play improved but also the eight teams will be much more competitive than ever before, says Charlotte Edwards
Charlotte Edwards is a former England’s women’s captain who played 23 Tests, 191 ODIs and 95 T20Is between 1996 and 2015. She led England to victories in the ICC Women’s World Cup 2009 as well as the ICC Women’s World Twenty20 2009. In 2008, she won the ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year award.
As the ICC Women’s World Cup qualifying competition came to an exciting conclusion in Sri Lanka, with the hosts qualifying along with India, Pakistan and South Africa, I am more convinced than ever that the ICC Women’s World Cup to be held in the United Kingdom this summer will be the best-ever staged.
Even in the past 12 months, the game has evolved and there are girls across the world who are now household names, which is exciting in itself. The girls are now hitting the ball that much harder and there are more sixes and fours than ever before - the recent Women’s Big Bash League and Kia Super League competitions in Australia and England are great examples of that. I am sure this summer’s ICC Women’s World Cup will be the perfect stage to showcase how the sport has reached another level.
Not only has the standard of play improved but also the eight teams will be much more competitive than ever before – and they will have the added incentive of a final at Lord’s, the Home of Cricket.
I believe that one of the biggest factors in the improvement of the women’s game has been the introduction of the ICC Women’s Championship. When I look at the ICC Women’s World Cup qualifying tournament, I can see the benefit of the Championship – as teams have played together more often than ever before.
The competitiveness of the ICC Women’s Championship – along with domestic T20 competitions in countries like Australia – where I have been playing this winter – and in England have also been important in raising standards.
It has meant that there is better scheduling and - allied to the ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier - it has been priceless for those emerging sides. It gives them a chance to get a real breadth of competition and the invaluable experience of playing in different conditions.
Now, when I look ahead to the ICC Women’s World Cup this summer, I believe it will be the closest ever staged and although the powerhouses of Australia, New Zealand, England and West Indies will be considered favourites, they will face some tough matches against qualifiers India, Pakistan, South Africa and Sri Lanka.
Any team which hits its top form on match day can cause a surprise. We have seen that recently with South Africa beating Australia. This is what we have been looking for in women’s cricket for a long time – the old order being challenged. We now have teams who are more experienced at international level and that is making a difference. The likes of India and South Africa looked strong during the qualifying tournament, which makes the four semi-finalists at Derby and Bristol hard to predict.
In the last few years, under the brilliant captaincy of Stafanie Taylor, the West Indies side emerged and won its first global event at the ICC Women’s World Twenty20 2016 in India. The Caribbean side has a player like Deandra Dottin who has strength, while New Zealand boasts someone like Sophie Devine, who can hit the ball out of the park. This year, we may even see South Africa or India come through, who knows?
The ICC has done an amazing job in the way that it has promoted the sport. The growth of the ICC Women’s World Cup into a massive event and the double headers in the ICC World T20 semi-finals and final have helped promote the women’s game.
The added success for the women’s game has been that so many games are now televised and, therefore, reach and attract a wider audience. This makes an enormous difference when trying to promote the sport and showcase the top players.
I know the fans who witness the trophy lifted at Lord’s on July 23 will have enjoyed the tactical and technical battle of women’s cricket.
We have been very lucky in women’s cricket. We have a good product which is improving and changing all the time. It is changing not just in the playing side but also with the new broadcast and media approach. This has been vital keeping the game moving forward.
I hope that media exposure has the same effect on young girls around the world and encourages them to take up cricket – just as it did when I watched the Women’s World Cup on television when it was staged in England in 1993. Let’s hope a new generation of women cricketers are inspired this summer.