Stars launch women's World Cup

The cream of the women’s game gathered in Sydney today for the launch of the World Cup.

Players and coaches of the eight nations taking part - Australia, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and West Indies - were photographed by Sydney Opera House before an official opening ceremony at Luna Park.

Cricket Australia chairman and International Cricket Council director Jack Clarke launched the tournament by predicting further growth of the women’s game - in Australia and beyond.

“We hope that the staging of this event will further accelerate Cricket Australia’s vision for women’s cricket in this country," he said.

“The ICC wants cricket to be a genuinely global sport and to achieve that goal cricket has to be a genuine global sport for girls and women, we as well as boys and men.”

Jhulan Goswami, Sunette Loubser, Merissa Aguillera, Shashikala Siriwardena, Karen Rolton, Urooj Mumtaz, Haidee Tiffin & Charlotte Edwards

The captains gather in front of Sydney Opera House ahead of the opening ceremony at Luna Park

Seven matches will be broadcast live in more than 200 countries, unprecedented coverage of the women's game which Clarke hopes will "encourage the further growth of women’s cricket globally".

ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat echoed Clarke’s sentiments, adding: “This will be an exciting event which will take women’s cricket to new heights and will hopefully produce role models.

“I know the competitors are extremely excited and so is the ICC as it the first time this event is being staged under our umbrella.

“With five-times winner Australia defending its title on its home turf, it is not going to be easy for the other seven teams to upset the hosts, but this is a World Cup, so every side will believe it can capture the trophy.

“My message for the competitors is a simple one: go out there, play as hard as you can, enjoy the cricket and Australia’s hospitality.

“May the best team win and may we have a tournament that shows cricket as a great sport with a great spirit.”

The tournament will get under way on Saturday, when England meet Sri Lanka in Canberra and India and Pakistan - who make up the remainder of Group B - clash in Bowral.