Interest in women's cricket has seen a major surge over the past couple of years and new research unveiled on Monday by the International Cricket Council (ICC) shows the scale of the impact this summer's Women's Cricket World Cup has had on fans and new participants.
The first study of its kind on women's cricket among sports fans across Australia, England and Wales, India, New Zealand and South Africa was commissioned to mark the start of the ICC Women's Championship and shows a huge boost to the women's game. Conducted by Nielsen Sports, the objective of the research was to investigate awareness of the Women's World Cup, perceptions towards the women's game and key motivators to getting involved.
The stats from this summer's event clearly demonstrate improving standards, something that fans agreed strongly with. A total of 93% of the people surveyed felt that it was the best standard of women's cricket they had ever seen with 91% finding the matches exciting to watch on television. As many as 82% followed the event more than any other women's cricket event previously and overall 67% of respondents said they would now take a greater interest in the women's game following the World Cup.
As many as 92% of sports fans in India believe they had seen an increase in media coverage of women's cricket in the last two years while 66% in England and Wales, 66% in Australia, 58% in South Africa and 50% in New Zealand felt the same.
Across the five key markets surveyed, 65% of sports fans were aware that the ICC Women's World Cup took place, which included a whopping 94% from India and 67% from tournament host England and Wales.
Significantly, interest among respondents' children was exciting for the future with almost 40% watching coverage of the event and 50% of respondents' children were inspired to try playing the game or play more cricket based on what they had seen at the ICC Women's World Cup.
ICC Chief Executive David Richardson, said, "The research confirms our belief in the potential for the growth of women's cricket. It is heartening to see that almost 70% of those questioned have said they'll now take a greater interest in the women's game and more so that half of their children felt inspired to try the game or play more cricket.
"What is particularly satisfying is the almost unanimous agreement that the standard of cricket this summer was the best people had ever seen. The ICC introduced the Women's Championship in 2014 to provide more competitive opportunities and increase the strength and depth of the women's game. With the second edition getting underway later this week I am genuinely excited about the future of women's cricket and its growth. I wish all the teams the very best as they embark on this tournament and on the road to World Cup 2021."
The ICC Women's Championship will be played in the same format as the inaugural edition which was held from 2014-16, with all eight sides - Australia, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and the West Indies - taking on each other in series of three ODIs on a home or away basis.
World Cup 2021 host New Zealand and the three other top teams from this championship will gain direct qualification for ICC's pinnacle event while the remaining four sides will get a second chance through the ICC Women's World Cup Qualifier event in which they will be joined by six teams from four regions - Africa, Asia, East Asia Pacific and Europe.
Member boards will be encouraged to play T20Is during tours but no other ODIs can be scheduled along with Women's Championship series. Teams will get two points for each win, one point for a tie or no-result and no points for a loss.
The West Indies host Sri Lanka for the first series of the Championship, from 11 to 15 October, while England and Australia play each other from 22 to 29 October. In other first-round series, Pakistan host New Zealand in the United Arab Emirates (31 October to 5 November) and South Africa play at home against India (5 to 10 February 2018).
Meanwhile, captains of the finalist teams of the ICC Women's World Cup 2017 have welcomed the results of the study while looking forward to the ICC Women's Championship.
India captain Mithali Raj, said, "It's heartening to see the success of the ICC Women's World Cup and the popularity of women's cricket in India. 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."
England captain Heather Knight, said, "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 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."