“It’s heartening to see the success of the ICC Women’s World Cup and the popularity of women’s cricket in India,” said Mithali. ©  AFP

“It’s heartening to see the success of the ICC Women’s World Cup and the popularity of women’s cricket in India,” said Mithali. © AFP

With the next ICC Women’s Championship due to start in two days’ time, the International Cricket Council revealed on Monday (October 9) that interest in the women’s game had spiked following the Women’s World Cup in England this summer.

A survey conducted by Nielsen Sports has shown that 93% of the people who took part in the exercise believed it was the ‘best standard’ of women’s cricket they had ever seen, and 82% tracked the World Cup more than any other women’s event in the past.

The study was conducted among fans across Australia, England and Wales, India, New Zealand and South Africa, with the aim being to probe the impact of the Women’s World Cup and how the women’s game is perceived globally.

With the Mithali Raj-led Indian team making it to the final where they lost narrowly to hosts England, it was no surprise that a whopping 92% of the fans in India felt they had seen an increase in media coverage of women’s cricket in the last two years.

“It’s heartening to see the success of the ICC Women’s World Cup and the popularity of women’s cricket in India,” said Mithali. “That so many people followed our progress at the World Cup proves that there is an appetite for women’s cricket in India and it will only grow in the coming years.

“The ICC Women’s Championship has contributed immensely in the growth of players and the competition at the top level has increased substantially. I’m sure the coming cycle of the championship will see some fiercely contested matches.”

Heather Knight, the England captain, added, “It’s important for women’s cricket that we keep moving forward and the numbers from this research are encouraging. We want more people to know about our game and to come and watch so we can have more packed houses, like we had at Lord’s in the final of this year’s ICC Women’s World Cup.”

The second edition Women’s Championship will retain its the same format as the inaugural one from 2014 to 16, with Australia, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Windies taking on each other in series of three One-Day Internationals on a home or away basis.

New Zealand, who will host the 2021 World Cup, and the three other top teams from this championship will gain direct entry while the remaining four sides will come through the Qualifiers, where they will be joined by six teams from Africa, Asia, East Asia Pacific and Europe.

No other ODIs are to be scheduled along with Women’s Championship series, the ICC clarified, even though the sides can play Twenty20 Internationals. Teams will get two points for each win, and one point for a tie or no-result.

Windies host Sri Lanka in the first series of the Championship, from October 11 to 15, while England play Australia from October 22 to 29. Pakistan will entertain New Zealand in the United Arab Emirates (October 31 to November 5) and South Africa take on India at home (February 5 to 10, 2018).

“I am genuinely excited about the future of women’s cricket and its growth,” said David Richardson, the ICC chief executive. “The ICC Women’s Championship has been great for raising standards and for getting us playing more cricket. We’re looking forward to the next cycle and another productive period.”