A great advertisement for women's cricket
What goes into hosting a successful tournament? The key elements would be fair pitches, a crisp format, and, if you're lucky, good weather. But unless there are strong performances to back up the other factors, you can be sure the tournament will be forgotten before the next breaking news.
The ninth women's World Cup passed all these tests, and even as the IPL's move stole its thunder, it can lay claim to being a successful event. The pitches, slower at the end of Australia's summer season, aided spin but did not let the bowlers dominate the batsmen; the two-week format allowed each side a minimum of four games; and the weather interrupted the tournament only once - on the opening day.
But what made this World Cup - the first organised by the ICC - such a success was the consistent performances by most teams. Last time's finalists Australia and India disappointed but the rest, especially the minnows led by Pakistan, made a mark.
England's campaign was the perfect advertisement for the women's game. Charlotte Edwards may claim they didn't play their best cricket but victory margins of 100 runs, nine wickets, eight wickets, 146 runs, 31 runs and four wickets paint the picture of the "ruthless" side she has been developing since their disappointing show at the Quadrangular Series two years ago.
Surprise of the tournament:
Unlike the men's teams, the women get little match practice before the World Cup - organising women's cricket is, after all, is a loss-making venture. India played no international cricket between February 2007 and May 2008, West Indies' first series after the 2005 World Cup was organised last year, and even runners' up New Zealand had no international matches between March 2008 and February 2009.
The World Cup is like a trip to the big city for countryside folk: there is a variety that most players have never been exposed to before. This is especially true of the weaker teams - Pakistan, South Africa and Sri Lanka - who at best get to play each other or associate countries in the space between two World Cups. But Pakistan - with an average age of 22 and no player from their last World Cup 12 years ago - did not look out-of-place second cousins to the big girls. They beat Sri Lanka for the first time in 19 matches during the group phase and made sure the victory wasn't written off as lucky, as they defeated West Indies by four wickets. They even put up a fight against New Zealand, reaching 150 in reply to a mammoth 373. The rules are such that sixth-place Pakistan, along with West Indies, who are ranked one spot higher, will be taking part in the qualifiers for the 2013 World Cup but it can be hoped that their show in Australia, which earned praise from the New Zealand and England captains, will get them a few tours against the bigger teams. Urooj Mumtaz, the Pakistan captain, said New Zealand players, who her side had got close to over the course of the tournament, had passed on tips on how to play at the top level. Perhaps it will eventually amount to an invite to New Zealand as well.
Disappointment of the tournament:
The hosts were expected to win their sixth World Cup - the second at home - while facing some resistance from England. But nothing went right for them from the start as they lost to New Zealand, struggling to reach the par score in a rain-interrupted game, and then to India in the Super Six.
Claire Taylor: She was expected to be one of the stars of the tournament and she didn't disappoint, with 324 runs at 64.80. She started off with 101 off 95 balls against Sri Lanka, followed by half-centuries against India and New Zealand. Her dismissal in the low-scoring final would have boosted New Zealand's hopes but such is the depth of England's batting that in the end her fall was a minor hiccup.
Mithali Raj: Stripped of the captaincy a series before the World Cup, Raj didn't let the demotion affect her batting and continued to churn out the runs with languid grace. She was the only Indian batsmen in the list of top ten run-getters for the tournament.
Laura Marsh: The England offspinner was the World Cup's leading wicket-taker with 16 wickets from six games. Before coming to Australia, Marsh averaged 23.14 for each of her 24 wickets from 17 games since August 2006. The figure had dropped to 18.02 by the end of the World Cup.
The ICC was slammed for its poor organisation of the 2007 men's World Cup but their first handling of the women's event was impressive. As England's Nicki Shaw, the Player of the Match in the final, said: "We just go on the field and play our game, and I think that is credit to the ICC in the fact that we do not notice them," Shaw told Cricinfo. "It's a very well-run tournament like it was before and the fact that they have taken it over and it has all run smoothly is a credit to them." The players, though, did get noticed and should continue to do so in the World Twenty20 in June.
Nishi Narayanan is a staff writer at Cricinfo