Connor reveals funding benefits
England captain Clare Connor believes the increased funding in women’s cricket can only help the development of the sport.
The International Women's Cricket Council has recently merged with the International Cricket Council, providing a boost for women's cricket around the world.
The ICC initially stepped in to help fund the next Women's World Cup, scheduled to take place in South Africa in 2005, and the collaboration has been welcomed by most, with a spokesman for the IWCC commenting: "We simply don't have the resources, so the merger means the ICC can be more pro-active on women's cricket."
A similar merger between the ECB and the Women's Cricket Association in 1997 has seen the game in this country go from strength to strength and Connor said: "Being run by the international governing body can only help to make us stronger."
Sponsorship from both npower and NatWest, as well as National Lottery funding from the English Institute of Sport, means the women's game in England is in a healthy state.
When Connor went on her first tour with England, to India in 1995, each player had to contribute £500 to the costs and had to pay for their own England blazer.
Now the England women’s team are almost semi-professional and have a specialist performance plan. Several of them are taking career breaks or study leave from university in order to train full-time and this has only been made possible due to increased funding.
Connor, who is part of the broadcasting team for Channel 4's The Cricket Show, as well as teaching English at her own former school, Brighton College, found that juggling both of these, along with her cricket commitments, was just too difficult.
The funding now available to the women's team has meant she has been able to take a two-year sabbatical from her teaching job and can concentrate on her cricket.
"I am currently spending two days a week with Channel 4 and the rest of my time is spent between netting, coaching sessions, going to the Sussex academy and spending time with my family and friends,” she said.
“There is more balance to my life now, which I didn't have before. I am somebody who likes to do things properly, but everything was suffering as I couldn't spend enough time on each."
The increased funding and extra practice which this allows has seen an upturn in the England women's cricket team's fortunes and it is now hoped a similar improvement will be seen around the world.