England v India, 1st women's ODI, Scarborough August 20, 2014

Road to Women's World Cup begins

ESPNcricinfo staff

Play 02:49
Women's Championship has been a priority - Connor

England will attempt to put behind them the shock of losing the Test against India when they begin the one-day series in Scarborough on Thursday, on a day which marks the start of the road to the 2017 Women's World Cup with the beginning of the Women's Championship.

The Championship, the first structured bilateral tournament in the women's game, will have officially started a few hours earlier in Brisbane with Australia facing Pakistan. The other four teams involved are South Africa, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and West Indies.

The introduction of the league comes at a time when the major challenge within the women's game is to provide a sustainable volume of cricket and also ensure that a damaging divide does not start to emerge along funding lines.

England and Australia are significantly ahead of the other nations in terms of financial investment and, although India's victory at Wormsley showed that does not automatically transfer into on-field results, the women's game needs to look after those countries where money is more of a challenge.

One option put on the table in recent months was the Women's International Cricket League (WICL), a privately funded and run T20 event proposed to be held in Singapore. The ECB and Cricket Australia, however, quickly doused talk of any private enterprise being allowed to take hold.

"From an ICC perspective I suppose the real priority has been getting to the Women's Championship positioned and rolling that out the best we can," Clare Connor, the ECB head of women's cricket, said. "Bilateral cricket has to be our priority and to give it context and meaning ahead of the next World Cup. Once we see that bed in and run smoothly, I'm sure there will be scope to look at a global T20 competition.

"I think what will happen is that in the next 12-24 months, England, Australia and India will somehow discuss a way forward to make something like that happen. It would be good to have a tournament like that which could inject more money into the game and bolster the profile in a different way."

The Championship sees each team play each other in one home or away series that will include three ODIs counting towards the Championship over a two-and-a-half year period. As such, each side is guaranteed at least 21 ODIs over the tournament period.

At the conclusion of the seven rounds, the top four sides will gain automatic qualification for the 2017 Women's World Cup in England, while the bottom four sides will get a final chance of qualification through the Qualifier event.