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England's win will send a message to the other boards that investment does pay off. Women are traditionally keen students of the game and often to be elite athletes requires a good deal of career sacrifice and understanding employers
Jenny Roesler in Sydney
March 22, 2009
Charlotte Edwards doesn't have to work five days a week. Nor do Katherine Brunt and Jenny Gunn, among others in the England side. Around a year ago, contracts were handed to the England women, allowing them to focus on their cricket-life-work balance, with the ultimate aim the World Cup final.
And now they are world champions, having brought up their side's third title, and their only one away from home. While the deals are not the sole reason for the side's dominance and consistency of 17 wins on the run, the investment, backed by the ECB with broader financial support in top-class coaches for example, has strengthened the England side immeasurably.
It was also their first win since 1993, back when women's cricket had a very different complexion. A largely amateur game, it is only in recent times that the game has begun to be heavily invested in.
Now, England's win will send a message to the other boards that investment does pay off. Women are traditionally keen students of the game and often to be elite athletes requires a good deal of career sacrifice and understanding employers. Good bosses can be hard to find and one wonders whether the credit crunch may reduce those numbers further with employers keen to squeeze every last drop out of workers as profits fall.
Australia's women are the latest recipients of deals, with extra financial assistance announced a month or so after England's - and a recent further boost. Their absence from the final is a shame in that respect, and for the fact that greater home crowds could be expected at the North Sydney Oval for the final. But the end of Australian dominance can be no bad thing to shake up the game.
India are another side who receive good assistance and had they reached the final then great support would have come from home, with lots of people tuning into internet coverage or satellite TV.
However, neither Australia nor India fully deserve to be there given their overall performance of the World Cup, while nobody would argue that about New Zealand. Coming from a population of 4.5million, the New Zealand women have typically excelled in producing quality cricket throughout the tournament and had they lifted the trophy it would also be merited.
New Zealand's administrators were pioneering last decade when, in 1992, they became the first board to take their women under their wing. The advantage to New Zealand cricket was seen instantly. A strong unit found its way into the World Cup final in 1993 and 1997, and won it in 2000.
At the moment, New Zealand are still more than cutting it with the other big girls, but there must be a fear that a gap could open up without more support. They have found vocal support from as far away as Afghanistan, where their troops have been following them.
|In a battle of immense pressure, England's superior experience allowed the players to hold their nerve when it really mattered. The present is glittering with their new silver and gold trophy and the future looks even brighter|
While their captain Haidee Tiffen says it's not a priority for now - and the New Zealand Cricket board has provided plenty of support in other ways - further financial assistance for the women could help keep them at the top of their game.
Winning captain Edwards has publicly acknowledged the role that increased funding has had to play in England's dominance, not least because it allows for extra cricket. With her team-mates taking time off from work whenever they need to - because that work is within cricket, so they have the most understanding employers of all - England have been able to play as much international cricket as they have needed. Their players have also been able to winter in Australia.
In a battle of immense pressure, England's superior experience allowed the players to hold their nerve when it really mattered. The present is glittering with their new silver and gold trophy and the future looks even brighter. The next tournament is the World Twenty20 on home soil and, while it is a different form of the game, already they are looking good.
Jenny Roesler is a former assistant editor at CricinfoFeeds: Jenny Roesler
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