Australia is the odds-on favorite to win the Women’s Cricket World Cup, which starts Friday. It comes amid rising international exposure and clamor for equal pay.

Australia’s win in the Ashes series is a clear indication that it is in top form for Saturday’s opening match against England.

Rachael Haynes, Australia’s batter, said that “I believe our group is very fresh” and that this was a positive sign going into what will be a mentally and physically challenging tournament. “There will be some difficult games of cricket.”

New Zealand won a warm-up match against Australia and will face the West Indies in Friday’s first match. There is limited support at Bay Oval, Tauranga. New Zealand is currently fighting a COVID-19 omicron epidemic with more than 22,000 cases per day. Crowds will be limited to 10% of the venue capacity.

The tournament will feature eight teams from Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan West Indies (West Indies), South Africa, India, Bangladesh, Australia, England and New Zealand. The 50-over matches will take place at six locations that will require significant internal travel.

COVID-19 will continue to be a threat to the tournament, but extraordinary contingency plans were put in place to ensure that matches go on as smoothly as possible.

Heather Knight, England’s captain, stated at a news conference that a tournament without the coronavirus was “probably unlikely.”

Knight’s prediction was realized quickly. After testing positive for COVID-19, Ashleigh Gardner, an Australian all-rounder, will be absent from the World Cup’s first two games. Gardner must be isolated for 10 days according to New Zealand’s health guidelines.

In the event of a COVID-19 epidemic, organizers will allow matches to be rescheduled. However, they also have an unusual plan that would allow teams to field nine and two substitutes from their management contingents. Although it was not openly criticised by any of the teams, it has raised some eyebrows and inspired some laughter.

Knight stated that it had caused some jokes among female staff. Knight said, “We have the doctor and manager down to have a net tomorrow. Due to the rules regarding close contacts, it’s possible for this to happen. People are eager to move the tournament forward if COVID goes wrong. It’s not ideal, but it will never happen.

The title was won by England in 2017 when the 50-over World Cup was held. After losing the first match against India, England rallied to defeat India in the final. Knight believes England has the advantage of experience as it tries to defend its title.

She stated that Australia will be the favorites but that (the 2017 World Cup win), should give them a lot more experience of what it takes for these events to succeed. Sometimes it’s about just getting over the line, and that’s what I believe we did in 2017.

The World Cup will feature eight teams competing for $3.5 million in prize money. This is 75% more than the previous tournament. The winner will be awarded $1.32million, which is double the prize for 2017.

This is compared to the $10 million that will be available in the men’s World Cup in 2023.

Women’s cricket still sees a significant step forward in the increase in prize money. Each country is also taking steps to increase the remuneration for female cricket players.

Australian vice-captain Haynes stated that “these kinds of things are really important in regards to the message it sends more broadly within the community.” “Even last week, we witnessed the U.S. soccer team win in their fight for gender equality in their sport. So I believe there is a lot to be excited about this issue and that governing bodies must ensure there is gender equality in their sport.

“I would expect that over time, we will see greater parity between prize pools and pay.”

Australia beat India to win the women’s Twenty20 World Cup in March 2020 on Australian soil. This was the last major event before the pandemic.