Love of the game carries women's cricket through
It's taken a special love of cricket for the International Women's Cricket Council to survive.
By most standards the lack of funding would have caused many international sports bodies to have given the whole thing up, turned off the lights and left the door firmly bolted.
But in December when they sit down for their 16th meeting, as the CricInfo Women's World Cup nears its final stages, delegates will be able to reflect on 42 years battling the odds.
When they first met in Melbourne on February 19, 1958, during England's tour of Australia, the members in attendance could scarcely have dared to believe that by the end of the year 2000, women's cricket would have completed its eighth World Cup.
The notion of a World Cup, let alone a World Cup playing one-day cricket, would not even have been on a wish list of the delegates. Given that England and Australia each agreed to pay a donation of three pounds, and South Africa and New Zealand two pounds with the Netherlands paying five shillings to help defray typing and postage costs, World Cups were not exactly on the horizon.
E W Stevenson was elected the first president of the International Women's Cricket Council (IWCC) with compatriot N P Whitehorn the honorary secretary. South Africa's M Robison was the vice president.
An intended newsletter among interested parties made one appearance before a lack of items and interest saw it lapse.
A second meeting was held in Durban in 1960 where the leadership was changed to Australia with R Preddy taking on the presidency and M Verco the honorary secretaryship. Holland's F Brandenberg was vice president.
A regular turnover of officers occurred at meetings in London in 1963 and 1966. At this stage the financial strains of hosting overseas tours was a constant subject of discussion and even the agreement that tours have four years between them had to be changed to wider gaps.
By 1967 England had made its third visit to Holland. The Jamaican Women's Cricket Association had been formed and within a year the Trinidad and Tobago Women's Cricket Association would be established.
As Jamaica joined up in 1969 discussion points on amateur status and sponsorship were more prevalent at the international meetings. But it was clear the cricket gospel was spreading among women.
Interestingly, it was the interception of a letter from English cricket legend Rachael Heyhoe-Flint to Sir Charles Hayward, by Hayward's son, Jack [later Sir Jack], which set in train the prospect of a World Cup. Heyhoe-Flint sent a letter requesting support for the financially strapped women's game.
Sir Jack saw the letter while based in the Bahamas and then invited England to make a fully paid tour to Jamaica where a triangular series was played with Trinidad making up the numbers.
Then later in 1971 after dinner at Sir Jack's English home the thought of a World Cup was raised. A sponsorship of 40,000 pounds was later forthcoming and the first Cup was held in 1973.
Teams competing were: Australia, England, Jamaica, New Zealand, Trinidad and Tobago, Young England and an International Invitation XI. England won the first tournament, beating Australia in the final by 92 runs.
At the IWCC meeting associated with the tournament, India and Trinidad and Tobago attended while Barbados applied for membership of the body.
In 1974 the West Indian countries were amalgamated into the Caribbean Women's Cricket Federation. South Africa had earlier been awarded the second World Cup but sanctions against its apartheid policy were kicking in and the tournament was switched to India.
When the tournament was played in India, in the 1977/78 season, the lack of direction by the IWCC in the tournament preparation was raised and it was decided the IWCC should play a more active role and take responsibility for future World Cup competitions.
By 1985 Denmark and Ireland had been awarded full membership of the Council, men were admitted as delegates to the body and Test matches were increased to four days.
The long wrestling match over sponsorship and amateurism was resolved at the 1988 meeting in Melbourne when it was realised the IWCC lacked an identity and would require international sponsorship for future World Cup competitions.
The constitution was also restructured with two vice-presidents being appointed, one from each hemisphere while match and drug committees were also formed. It was also decided the IWCC would become the controlling body of the World Cup. South Africa was welcomed back into the international family while Canada and Japan were admitted as affiliate members of the IWCC.
At the 15th meeting in Calcutta in 1997, Pakistan and Sri Lanka were admitted as members of the IWCC while Bangladesh applied for membership but it has failed to follow up its interest with the IWCC. The meeting awarded the next World Cup to New Zealand and decided the following event would be held in South Africa.
The December meeting this year will consider several changes to the constitution in order to accommodate the rapid growth of the women's game around the world. And, while it was intended that all member countries should play in the World Cup, a qualifying tournament will be necessary because of the sheer logistical problem that could hit organisers if all eligible countries took part.
With this in mind a tournament has been organised for 2002, at a venue to be decided at the December meeting of the IWCC. Playing in it will be the three lowest placed teams at the Calcutta tournament - the West Indies, Denmark and Pakistan - who missed out on playing this year when the draw was restricted to eight countries, and the two lowest placed teams from this year's tournament.
The most recent development occurred on February 15, 2000 with the news that CricInfo would sponsor the 2000 World Cup.
IWCC president Mary Brito commented: "The tremendous development of information technology must assist the IWCC and its members in the development, progress and standard of play internationally and CricInfo is the ideal tournament sponsor with this in mind."