England's World Cup-winning cricketers go into their crucial World T20 semi-final against India tonight with further uncertainty hanging over the women's game, after the ECB confirmed that cuts are envisaged to the Kia Super League budget, as part of a wider effort to cut costs across the game.

The tournament's future had already been shrouded in doubt amid the ECB's plans for a new-team competition from 2020 onwards, potentially encompassing both men's and women's squads.

But with the ECB's reserves dropping sharply - their latest set of accounts showed they had plummeted from £73.1m in 2016 to £8.6m in 2018 - and the costs of setting up The Hundred rising sharply - from £13m to over £40m - belts are being tightened across the game.

An ECB spokesman insisted there would be no reduction in the number of teams, matches or salaries paid to players in the KSL. He also insisted there would be no dilution of the match-day experience for spectators. Instead he said "efficiency savings" had been identified around match-day costs and flights for overseas players.

It is understood that the proposed cuts are in the region of 12-20 percent, and that several of the counties are advising the ECB to rethink the decision, given that the tournament has been instrumental - since its inception in 2016 - in bridging the gap between domestic and international women's cricket.

The arrival of major overseas stars, such as India's Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur, Australia's Ellyse Perry and West Indies' Hayley Matthews, have helped to raise the overall standards of the tournament, with the result that England's head coach, Mark Robinson, has leaned heavily on performances in the KSL to keep up the pressure for places in England's international teams.

Not only did Robinson select three uncapped players for his World T20 squad - Kirstie Gordon, Sophia Dunkley and Linsey Smith - on the strength of their performances in last summer's competition, he also trusted each of them to make their England debuts in their opening match of the tournament against Bangladesh in St Lucia last week.

The trio have all made telling contributions in England's progression to the semi-finals, and speaking before their departure for the Caribbean, each of them was effusive in praising the tournament, not least for the opportunity to take part in televised matches outside of the international arena.

"When you first start out in the KSL on TV, you don't know what to expect so things can put you off, but the more you get used to it, it more it doesn't faze you," said Dunkley. "It's pretty good practice for when you step up to international level, it's one thing that won't put you off your mark."

Gordon, who had to give up her burgeoning career with Scotland in order to play for Loughborough Lightning - a gamble that has now handsomely paid off - pointed to the steady increase in crowds as proof of the tournament's appeal.

"For the first few years in the KSL, there were crowds but they weren't that big, but in the last couple it's kicked on, and at the last Finals Day, there were 4-5000 tickets sold out at Sussex.

"It's massive for the women's game to have a full crowd on television, and trying to inspire the next generation of girls growing up, knowing they can play cricket."