Women's World Cup: Teams can fulfil fixtures with nine players

By Stephan ShemiltChief cricket writer in Christchurch
England celebrate winning the 2017 World Cup
England are the defending World Cup champions after lifting the trophy on home soil in 2017

Teams at the Women's World Cup will be able to fulfil their fixtures with only nine fit players if their squad is hit by Covid-19.

The tournament in New Zealand, which has some of the world's strictest Covid protocols, begins on 4 March.

The eight teams have squads of 15 players, with a maximum of three travelling reserves.

If a game is not played and cannot be rescheduled, it will be abandoned and the points shared.

With every team playing each other in the group stage, there are two points for a win and one for an abandonment.

As all travellers into New Zealand currently face a week in hotel quarantine, there is little prospect of teams calling up further reinforcements.

If a team does not have 11 available, they will be given the option to play with nine, which they will be able to reject.

Stronger nations, like Australia and England, may prefer to fulfil a fixture against a weaker side like Bangladesh without a full complement rather than accept one point for an abandonment, especially with the congested nature of the tournament making rescheduling matches difficult.

There is also the option for teams to use female members of their backroom team as fielders who would not be allowed to bat or bowl in order to fulfil a fixture.

"From a Covid perspective, we need to be a little bit flexible, as far as the way in which we manage the game to take into account these unique circumstances," said International Cricket Council head of events Chris Tetley.

"It's important that we do everything we can to try and maximise opportunities for the best players in the world to show their skills at a World Cup."

With New Zealand currently dealing with a surge in the Omicron variant, the whole country is under 'red' restrictions, meaning outdoor gatherings are capped at 100 people with one-metre distancing.

Tournament chief executive Andrea Nelson said matches will have spectators in attendance in 'pods' of 100 and some tickets will become available next week.

"We're taking it week-by-week as we work our way through but in the first week, it is likely that there'll be some availability at some matches," said Nelson.

"We're working really hard to see how many people we can get into the stadium and maximise interest in the World Cup."

The tournament begins with the hosts taking on West Indies in Tauranga.

England begin the defence of the title they won in 2017 against Australia in Hamilton the following day.

The top four teams from the group advance to the semi-finals, with the final taking place in Christchurch on 3 April.

Around the BBC - SoundsAround the BBC footer - Sounds