The end of July 1971 at Eastbourne in England; a hot Summer day, when an England XI was playing against a Young England XI in a representative match. That's when it all started. That was when a certain spectator, one Jack Hayward, talked to the Chairman of the Women's Cricket Association about the possibilities of a world cup competition for women cricketers - to be organised by the W.C.A., with his financial backing and staged in England. No doubt the idea had passed through many cricketers' minds, before and maybe even beyond that, to the point of discussion, but here, for the first time, it was a positive proposition. Some two years later, the event was organised, took place and became part of the sporting history of the world.
Jack Hayward was already well-known to women cricketers in England and in the Caribbean, having sponsored an unofficial visit to Jamaica in 1970, the first official tour by the W.C.A. to the West Indies, Bahamas and Bermuda in 1971 and set up the Triangular Tournament between England, Trinidad and Jamaica.
At the Annual General Meeting of the Women's Cricket Association, held in London, November 1971, two most important proposals were ratified; they were, A, to appoint a full-time National Development Officer/Secretary, and B, to go ahead with the 1973 women's cricket World Cup competition. The W.C.A. Officers steered the Association through the next two momentous years, co-ordinating and liaising between member countries; members of the Association, such as Area Representatives, on whom the eventual responsibilities of the World Cup Matches fell. This they did through the media of the Executive Committee on the one hand and their Area Associations, Clubs, Colleges and Schools on the other.
This then was the administrative set-up for organising the first World Cup.
But what of the players? In order to produce a balanced competition, it had been decided early on that, in addition to the England team, the W.C.A. would enter a Young England team and that all the competing countries would be asked to send extra players to make up an International Invitation XI. The leading English players, those who would be considered for places in these teams, carried a great deal of responsibility for the successful development of the World Cup plans, long before the Competition even started. It would be largely on their performance and image during 1972 and early 1973, backed up by the continuous publicity and sponsorship-seeking campaign which had started as far back as November 1971, that the cricketing bodies, the general public, press, radio, television and 'big business' would decide whether women's cricket at national level was worth backing. By March 1973, plans were well in hand, a great deal of interest had been aroused and support and goodwill received; everything seemed set fair for the first World Cup. There was, however, a blow which threatened to rock the boat. Sensitive to current world opinion and in no position to cope with the possible consequences of flouting that opinion, the W.C.A. had avoided a direct invitation the South Africa & Rhodesia Women's Cricket Association to take part in the competition. Instead, they had invited five individual South African players to be the basis of the International XI (as it came to be known). At the last minute, too late to take any other course of action, the W.C.A. was forced to withdraw these personal invitations in order to ensure the participation of other countries in the Competition.
On an almost unbelievably hot and sunny day, 14th June 1973, with Jack Hayward's beautiful solid silver trophy on display and with all the competing teams assembled in their colourful walking-out informs, the first ever World Cup Cricket Competition was officially launched by the then Chairman of the Sports Council.
Seven teams England, Young England, Australia, Jamaica, New Zealand, Trinidad & Tobago and an International XI competed for the World Cup in a series of 60-over one-day matches, each team playing the rest; Matches were played all over England, wherever first-class grounds and amenities were available; in this way women's cricket was taken to many towns and communities which had never before had the opportunity to see the game at National level. The final game was scheduled to be played at Edgbaston, Birmingham, between Australia and England, in the belief that these teams would probably be the strongest in the Competition. The forecasting proved to be right and interest in the Competition increased when it became more and more obvious that this would not only be the final game, but the deciding game as to which of these two countries would be the first holder of the World Cup.
Needless to say, the English weather, having lured all into a false sense of security with a two-week pre-competition heat wave, reverted to its normal summer standard as soon as the Competition started, and might (as wall members of the W.C.A. had feared) have wrecked the Competition. The very first match was never even started and five more cup matches were to be affected by rain; maybe it was a reluctant trace of politeness to our visitors that made the Clerk of the Weather do his worst to the England side - 4 out of their 6 games were very wet indeed!
FIRST - ENGLAND - 1973 (WCA)
The First World Cup was held in England in June/July, 1973, with six teams (Australia, England, Jamaica, New Zealand, Trinidad, Young England and an International XI) playing Cup games and district matches. The World Cup (a Georgian Silver Chalice) was presented by HRH The Princess Anne to England who beat Australia in the Final at Edgbaston on 28th July, 1973.
SECOND - INDIA - 1977/78
Only four countries (Australia, India and New Zealand) participated in the Competition - the West Indies having withdrawn at a very late stage due to internal problems. The final was played at Hyderabad on 13th January, 1978 - Australia beating England.
THIRD - NEW ZEALAND - 1982
The third World Cup was held in New Zealand during February, 1982; Participants (Australia, England, India, International XI and New Zealand) sponsored by Hansells (NZ) Limited. The final was played at Lancaster Park, Christchurch on 7th February - Australia retaining the Cup by beating England.
FOURTH - AUSTRALIA - 1988
The Fourth World Cup was held in Australia in November/December, 1988, sponsored by Shell as part of Australia's Bicentennial celebrations. Participants (Australia, England, Holland, India, Ireland, New Zealand, West Indies). The final took place at MCG, Melbourne on 15th December, 1988 where Australia won the Cup for the third time, beating England once again. A "Golden Oldies" Tournament was scheduled, but the cold wet, weather seriously disrupted arrangements.
FIFTH - ENGLAND - 1993
The Fifth World Cup was held in England during July, 1993. Participants (Australia, Denmark, England, Holland, India, Ireland, New Zealand and West Indies. The final was held at Lord.s, London on 1st August - England beating New Zealand.
SIXTH - INDIA - 1997
The Sixth World Cup was held in December, 1997 in India, sponsored by Hero Honda. Eleven teams participated (Australia, Denmark, England, Holland, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and West Indies. The final was held at Eden Park, Calcutta on 29th December - Australia beating New Zealand - before a crowd in excess of 60,000.
SEVENTH - NEW ZEALAND - 2000 (ECB)
The Seventh World Cup was held in December, 2000 in Christchurch, New Zealand, sponsored by Chino. Participants: Australia, England, Holland, India, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and Sri Lanka. The final was played at Lincoln University on 16th December - New Zealand beating Australia. The semi-finalists qualified for the next World Cup. Holland and Ireland will compete in the IWCC Trophy. Together with Denmark, Pakistan and the West Indies and other new members.