The England women's team and inner city areas are to benefit from investment approved by the England and Wales Cricket Board at their Board meeting this week.
In a ground breaking decision by the ECB directors it was agreed that a portion of the increased revenues ECB are likely to receive from future ICC events should be re-invested in urban areas and the women's game.
Minister for Sport Helen Grant MP said: "I share the ECB's desire to see cricket grow and I welcome this significant financial commitment directed at both the women's game and at developing facilities in our inner cities. Sport generally, and cricket specifically, appeals to people right across the country and it is excellent news that the ECB are acting to improve access and revive interest in cricket in our urban centres."
Opposition Minister for Sport Clive Efford MP said: “I welcome the announcement from English cricket about expanding participation at the grass roots. Cricket is showing the way to other sport governing bodies with their investment and by creating a professional team of elite women cricketers they will inspire a new generation young women to play in the future.”
Under these proposals the England women's team will receive a major pay rise and also a bonus following their Ashes success in Australia this winter. It followed on from their home success last summer under the captaincy of Charlotte Edwards.
Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman, said: "The success of the England women's team was a real bright spot during an otherwise disappointing winter. Over successive years the women's team have produced not only excellent results but have also been outstanding role models for a generation of girls and women who have been inspired to take up the game.
''These pay rises are significant and as a result, we are proudly creating the first group of full time women's professional cricketers. We hope that they will become some of the best paid sportswomen in Britain - certainly the best in British women's team sports."
While more than 908,000 people aged over 14 play cricket in teams in England and Wales according to the ECB's comprehensive Eureka study, many in inner cities find grass pitches are often out of reach. Now in a pilot programme the ECB is looking to create and rescue grounds in inner cities, starting in London.
Mr Clarke said: "ECB stands to benefit from the new financial arrangements at the ICC and the Board shared my passion for reviving cricket in inner cities in the next 10 years.
"Where there are no facilities we will work with local authorities and the outstanding Chance to Shine project to build grounds. That is the way that we can build proper inner city cricket clubs which will attract thousands of new players to the game."
The Eureka survey shows that 1.7 million people played the sport in the last twelve months.
The game-wide study of grassroots participation revealed that a total of 908,000 people aged over 14 played cricket in teams - with a further 792,000 people playing cricket informally in the garden or on the beach.
The survey also showed that 93 per cent of recreational cricketers were male, with seven per cent female and that the average age for a recreational cricketer was 31-years old.
Ethnic minorities comprised 30 per cent of the overall participation base and members of the south Asian community were six times more likely to play cricket than the average recreational player.
Cricket's traditional reputation for fair play scored highly with 50 per cent of participants saying the most important factor about a game was that it was played in the right spirit, 58 per cent saying they would like to play more often and 80 per cent finding cricket more enjoyable than other sports they also play.
Commissioned by ECB's Cricket Partnerships team, the research was based on ECB's first ever National Playing Survey which attracted more than 21,500 responses from recreational cricketers nationwide together with analysis of more than 1.2 million scorecards from Play-Cricket.com and feedback from twelve Focus Groups.
Further detailed analysis of the headline figure of 908,000 participants revealed that:
o 266,000 were 'Core' players who play at least twelve weeks of a 26 week summer season
o 436,000 were 'Occasional' players who play between three and eleven weeks of a 26 week summer season
o 206,000 were 'Cameo' players who play one or two weeks of a 26 week summer season
o The peak participation period was mid-June when 375,000 people played in teams in a single week
The findings formed part of a wider analysis of grassroots cricket participation which was conducted by Two Circles for ECB and funded via the Sport England Whole Sport Plan.
Commenting, ECB Chief Executive David Collier said: "The Board welcomed and supported a range of new investment in women's cricket, inner city cricket and the England Men's team. With 30% of cricketers in England and Wales being of Asian origin, this demonstrates that cricket reaches across and unites the various cultures in the UK. The demand for this summer's Investec Test matches, Royal London One-Day Series and NatWest International Twenty20s against Sri Lanka and India reflects this diversity.
“The exciting plans for the NatWest T20 Blast have also engaged all our First Class County Clubs while the early rounds of the LV= County Championship provides a shop window for all County cricketers to stake their claim for England selection making this one of the most interesting and important starts to the season for many years. Add to that a new commercial partner in Royal London for 50 Over cricket both domestically and internationally and there is much to look forward to.”