Caborn backing England Women
Sports Minister Richard Caborn passed on his best wishes to the England team ahead of the Women's World Cup when they attended a reception at the House of Commons on Monday evening.
The ECB teamed up with the Women’s Sports Foundation to officially launch the start of the England team's campaign as they prepare to fly out to South Africa for the tournament, which begins on March 22.
The event also recognised the huge strides that have been made within women's cricket in England over recent years, with record numbers of girls now taking up the sport.
Caborn believes victory at the World Cup, which would be celebrated with a reception at Downing Street, would be just reward for the vast improvements made in women's cricket and he is hoping Clare Connor's side can replace Australia as the top-ranked team in the world.
He told ecb.co.uk: "The World Cup will be a fantastic inspiration and there's no doubt that the ECB, along with the English Institute of Sport, have been investing very heavily and the Academy in Loughborough has been a tremendous boost for the women's cricket team.
"I think that, linked with the EIS, gives them a real chance of coming back with the first prize. Yes, they are ranked second in the world, but I'm pretty sure now with the preparations they've gone through that they could well beat the Australians and come back with the silverware."
With the Ashes series to follow in the summer, it is a huge year for women's cricket in England and Caborn acknowledged the progress already made.
"What now is very pleasing is the number of young people that are both coming into sport and cricket," he added. "There has been an increase of 60 per cent over the last few years of young women and girls playing cricket.
"There's no doubt there has been a renaissance in cricket across the board, with more young people now under coaching in cricket than we've had for many, many years. That's really pleasing because I think that will then feed through into the women's team and the England team led by Michael Vaughan."
For the players, the reception provided them with a chance to pay their thanks to the support network of coaches and sponsors which is now in place to continually raise standards in the game.
Connor has led England's revival since the last World Cup, and said: "It is an honour to captain this fantastic group of players. I really can't speak highly enough of them, their attitude, spirit and work ethic make my role very simple.
"But the journey extends beyond the players and I want to take this opportunity to offer some sincere thank-yous on behalf of the World Cup squad.
"To everyone at the England & Wales Cricket Board who have worked tirelessly to raise standards in our sport. The women's game is in the shape of its life in this country and thanks in particular to the director of women's cricket, Gill McConway, and our head coach Richard Bates, who have continued to pioneer the changes for that to be the case.
"Thanks also to everyone who has ever bought a lottery ticket and to Sport England. Our consistent levels of funding over the last few years have enabled us to work and train in equal measures so that we are physically, technically and mentally ready.
"To the English Institute of Sport whose strength and conditioning coaches, co-ordinated by Sam Bradley, have committed high levels of support to ensure we are in the best physical shape as we embark on a demanding World Cup schedule.
"To all our regional coaches, our one-to-one coaches, our Academy directors and the specialists who have worked with us at our training camps. Their expertise and belief in us has made a huge difference.
"To our team sponsor Vodafone; we would not be an England team capable of taking on any country in the world had it not been for their ongoing financial input into the game in this country. Thanks also to NatWest and npower, who have recently come on board to sponsor our home international series.
"We are achieving a level of equity in cricket which previous generations of female cricketers could only have dreamt of and the support of our sponsors is invaluable to that.
"I can assure you that we've left no stone unturned in our preparations for this World Cup. The girls intend to prove that to everybody as we embark on this final but most exciting leg of the journey."