If there is one prediction that can be safely made about this edition of the women’s World T20, it is that it is wide open. No one are favourites coming in to the tournament, with even the biggest names having suffered some losses in the recent past. The women’s game is more competitive than ever and the timing is perfect, with the ICC broadcasting an unprecedented 13 games including the semi-finals and the final. Six serious contenders have emerged for four semi-final spots, in what used to be a three or four horse race.
AUSTRALIA: They are gunning for an incredible fourth consecutive women’s WT20 crown. They also currently hold the ODI World Cup. The Southern Stars (as the team is known) would undeniably be the team to beat, except that they have not enjoyed much success in the T20 format this season, having won only two of their last six games. With six pace bowlers they are likely to face a problem of plenty in that department. It is the showing of their spinners -- Jess Jonassen, Kirsten Beams, and Erin Osborne -- that will be crucial though, considering they play in Nagpur and Delhi.
Meg Lanning: The skipper, and arguably the best batter in the world. At just 23, she has already scored more than 3000 international runs. Likely to open the batting, Lanning will be the prize wicket for opposition teams.
Ellyse Perry: The all rounder is in the form of her life with six fifties and 16 wickets in her last 10 international games. The dual international (also plays international football) could open the bowling, and will be the mainstay of the middle order.
ENGLAND: Led by veteran Charlotte Edwards (more than 300 international caps and 10,000 runs in all formats), England will be looking to go one better than their runners-up finish in 2014. Under new coach Mark Robinson, England will bank on the pace and swing of Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole up front to grab the initiative. One of their worries, though, will be the fact that they played only three T20Is in the last six months. However, they showed no signs of rustiness in their warm up matches, beating an in-for New Zealand twice.
Sarah Taylor: The England wicketkeeper was the cornerstone of their batting in their recent series win against South Africa, with scores of 74 n.o., 66 and 60. Lightning quick with the gloves, she will need to fire if England are to win the title again.
Heather Knight: Fast developing as an allrounder, the England team will count on her useful off-spin and her top-order batting. With the ability to play in all gears, Knight will be a vital cog in the England machine.
NEW ZEALAND: The White Ferns (as they are also known) will be looking to shed the tag of bridesmaids and go all the way this time around. The two time finalists are in good form, having won seven of their last nine T20Is, including series wins in India and over Australia. Their spin department looks in good health, with left-arm spinner Morna Neilson and offie Leigh Kasperek doing well. As is pace spearhead Lea Tahuhu, whom they will bank on for early breakthroughs.
Suzie Bates: The skipper is in some serious form, having blasted two fifties and a hundred in the Rose Bowl series and the following T20Is against Australia. She opens the batting, and is likely to slip in more than a few overs of skiddy medium pace as well.
Sophie Devine: Devine blasted a half century off 18 balls in India last year to claim the record for the fastest T20I half-century. Another dual international (one of three in the Kiwi side), she is also likely to share the new ball with Tahuhu.
INDIA: India surprised Australia and the world by beating the World Champions in their own backyard in January. A relief for captain Mithali Raj will be the fact that the batting and fielding departments, previously worry areas, are clicking. The return of Jhulan Goswami, who missed the Sri Lanka T20Is due to injury, will buoy the team as well. India stand their best ever chance of making a splash on the world stage, with home advantage and a balanced side.
Smriti Mandhana: The 19 year old southpaw was central to the series win in Australia, and even scored her maiden ODI century on that tour. She scored unbeaten fifties in both warm up matches, and her form augurs well for India.
Harmanpreet Kaur: The middle-order bat will be the key to holding the batting together in this tournament, with the protean ability to play both the waiting and explosive game. If the conditions favour spin, her dart like off spin could prove a handful.
SOUTH AFRICA: A fast improving team, they shunted New Zealand to make their first semi-final in 2014. Since then, their stock has risen quickly. Their fielding standards have gone up considerably, and I will not be surprised if the catch of the tournament came from one of them. Led by the experienced Mignon du Preez, they will look to improve their growing reputation in this tournament.
Dane van Niekerk: The leg spinning all rounder was the star of South Africa’s first T20I win over England last month. With the Proteas playing at Nagpur, Bangalore and Chennai, her leg spinners could make quite an impact.
Marizzane Kapp: One of South Africa’s key all-rounder, she forms an effective opening bowling pair with partner Shabnam Ismail. With the power to hit the big shots at will, she can turn a game on its head with either bat or ball.
WEST INDIES: The team from the Carribean boast some of the most powerful strikers in the game, in Deandra Dottin and Captain Stafanie Taylor. Both capable of contributing with the ball as well, the two will form the backbone of the West Indies effort in this WT20. The team has had a mixed season, losing the T20I leg of their last series against South Africa, after winning the ODIs.
Anisa Mohammed: She is the highest wicket-taker in women’s T20I, just three shy of a hundred wickets, and well and truly ahead of the rest of the pack (Perry is next with 73). She will relish playing in India, and will be the lynchpin of the Windies bowling.
Haley Matthews: The 17 year old has been making waves with the bat in international cricket, and would like to add a T20I fifty to her tally of 4 ODI half centuries. She will need to overcome her inexperience quickly though, and adapt well in her first internationals in India.
PAKISTAN: Led by Sana Mir, Pakistan have grown as a team over the last few years. However, they last played a T20I in November. Also, their late arrival in India means that they will not play any warm up games, and will have to hit the ground running. Senior players like batter Bismah Mahroof (1000+ T20I runs) will need to lead the way.
SRI LANKA: After a sensational 2013 World Cup (they beat England as well as India), Sri Lanka have not been able to maintain their momentum. Despite the talent of skipper Shashikala Siriwardene and Chamari Atapattu in the ranks, Sri Lanka have consistently underperformed, losing their last eight T20Is. It will be a miracle if they can revive those fortunes in this tournament.
IRELAND: Led by Isobel Joyce, one of five Joyce siblings to play for Ireland, Ireland earned their spot in the WT20 by winning the qualifying tournament in Thailand last year. They will relish the chance to cause an upset or two coming into this tournament.
BANGLADESH: Bangladesh finished second in the qualifiers, behind Ireland, and thus booked their tickets to India. The side, under the captaincy of the young Jahanara Alam, also features the experienced Salma Khatun, who has toured India before.
GROUPS IN WOMEN'S WORLD T20
A:Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka.
B:Bangladesh, England, India, Pakistan, West Indies Women.
In an extremely close race, New Zealand seem to have the edge over other teams by virtue of form and a settled, experienced team. However, the T20 format throws up more surprises than the longer versions, and as such, it is the most open WT20 ever. With the women’s tournament set to be a standalone event in 2018, the stage is set for the best teams in the world to fight it out for the title of World T20 champions.