The grandeur of Women's T20 World Cup 2020 in the backyard of one of the greatest cricketing sides, an impending world record challenge, some feisty teams lending to the spectre and much more to look forward to, in the upcoming fortnight-long cricketing carnival.
One of the underlying riders that will invariably be attached with women’s sport, in current times, is its ability to bring about social change.
In cricket, a standalone Women’s World T20 in 2018 in the Caribbean was certainly a step in the direction of change, but as Nick Hockley, CEO of the T20 World Cup Local Organising Committee, points out, the event was standalone by virtue of not having Men’s World T20 scheduled in that calendar year, however the forthcoming edition is in its true sense standalone.
The mural of the two Perrys – Katy and Ellyse – exemplifying the essence of entertainment and cricket – have been spray-painted on the streets of Melbourne, the sporting capital of the world. A full-fledged 360 degree campaign surrounding the marquee event, including the mission to #FillTheMCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground), on International Women’s Day – 8 March 2020 – the final of the T20 World Cup, and break the world record for the largest crowd attending a women’s sporting event, is envisaged by the organisers, giving the T20 World Cup a befitting sense of uniqueness and importance.
Fittingly, after having creating waves in women’s cricket over the years, Australia is a perfect venue that must also ride its crescendo.
Apart from building a world-beating side, Australia have its cricketing culture, setup and adequacy in place to host an event of such aspired magnitude and in all likelihood pull it off successfully. If the ODI World Cup in 2017 was the breakout year for Women's cricket, the T20 World Cup in 2020 has the potential to provide a massive leg up for sport's establishment as a regular feature into the mainstream.
Having clinched the title four times but never experienced the hysteria among their own, the 2020 edition of the T20 World Cup provides Meg Lanning's Australia, one of the greatest cricketing teams of all-time, a rare opportunity that has been aptly labelled as 'once-in-a-career' by their indomitable skipper in the lead up to the T20 World Cup.
With all the pre-tournament buzz creating base for a perfect concoction, talking about the cricket itself, a cursory look over all the 10 teams suggests that at least six teams out of them on paper are in contention to make the semi-finals.
Four-time winners. Reigning title holders. The top ranked team boasting of the No 1 bowler and all-rounder and also the hosts, Australia, are simply a cut above their competitors. Having said that, their traditional rivals and the 2009 World T20 champions, England, and now steadily emerging as a cricketing powerhouse, India, can throw a spanner in their march.
If not their three respective cricketing boards, the troika have certainly created an impression of ‘The Big Three’ sides around themselves heading into the tournament that is spread across a fortnight.
Almost as a prelude to the T20 World Cup, the three top-ranked teams were involved in a tri-series that ended a week ago. The six matches saw each team beat one another at least once, before Lanning's Australia emerged victorious against India in the finals.
The two tri-series finalists will set the ball rolling on Friday at the Sydney Showground stadium, with many pundits even pencilling them for The Big Dance at the ‘G.
"The image of a full MCG, watching the best players in the world, can be the global focal point for a message of empowerment and inclusion on March 8, International Women's Day."
— T20 World Cup (@T20WorldCup) November 13, 2019
The usual suspects from Australia besides the already aforementioned players are Alyssa Healy, Rachel Haynes Ashleigh Gardner, Jess Jonnassen, and Georgia Warhem but keep an eye out for the rising star Annabel Sutherland, who is coming on the back of some great showing in the Women’s Big Bash League.
For India, there is no bigger name than their captain Harmanpreet Kaur, who can single-handedly win games, her deputy Smriti Mandhana's class is well-established and then there are the four teenage stars in the squad to keep the Indian faithful excited in Shafali Verma, Jemimah Rodrigues, Radha Yadav and Richa Ghosh. Deepti Sharma lends the necessary balance to the side, while hopes will also rest on experienced bowling duo of Shikha Pandey and Poonam Yadav. India's win at an ICC event would not only imply the first for its Women's side but it most likely will elevate the sport to unprecedented heights.
The runners up from the 2018 edition, Heather Knight-led England, are a solid outfit comprising of out-and-out match-winners like Danielle Wyatt, Sophie Ecclestone, Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole.
The next three in the pecking order of the rankings are – The White Ferns from New Zealand, the Proteas from South Africa and the Windies from the Caribbean.
All three teams possess bonafide superstars among their ranks. As many as eight players from the White Ferns squad have the experience of playing in the WBBL in Australia and the big tournament experience of Suzie Bates, Sophie Devine, the returning veteran Rachel Priest, quick Lea Tahuhu and spinners Amelia Kerr and Leigh Kasperek are sure to give Australia and India a run for their money in Group A.
While the battle for the fourth team in the last four is likely to be a tight one between West Indies and South Africa in Group B, with England billed to qualify. The West Indies, like their key spinner Anisa Mohammed announced, are in town to spoil Australia’s party. They are aiming to avenge and serve a payback from the previous edition when Lanning’s side knocked out the hosts in semis. In the all-round strength of Stafanie Taylor, Deandra Dottin along with the firepower of opener Hayley Matthews, guile of Anisa and pace of Shamilia Connell and Shakera Selman, the 2016 champions could make a big splash in the tournament.
South Africa, like India, will be wanting to chart a way to register a maiden appearance in the finals of the T20 World Cup, and for that likes of skipper Dane van Niekerk, opener Lizelle Lee and ever-reliable Mignon du Preez will have to shoulder the responsibility of the batting with Chloe Tryon’s power-hitting. Fast bowling pair of Marizanne Kapp and Shabnim Ismail is probably as good as any in all teams while Sune Luus’ leg spin could be decisive. The remaining four sides, all from the sub continent: Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and debutants Thailand. None of them have ever made it past the first round of the tournament, but a format by design allows plenty of surprises, no team can be discounted. One good day on the field for them can send shockwaves throughout the competition.
The story of Thailand cricket is one of passion, resilience and smiles. As they get ready for their historic first appearance at the #T20WorldCup, watch the inspiring story of how they got here. Part 1: The Journey pic.twitter.com/8M1n6ALnQX — T20 World Cup (@T20WorldCup) February 18, 2020
After leaving out senior pro Sana Mir, Pakistan have in a sense ushered in a new era and they will look upon their leader Bismah Maroof, who has 106 T20I caps under her belt, followed by Javeria Khan, who is in line to complete 100 T20I appearances and on the X-factor and all-round spark of Nida Dar and Aliya Riaz if they need the results to go their way.
Sri Lanka’s Chamari Atapattu deservingly enjoys a giant’s status as more often than not their captain with her individual brilliance has set the stage alight. The hopes will once again hinge on the 30-year-old. Harshitha Madavi is a fast-rising star and with a couple of starry performances could make her name at the big stage. Atapattu has also found an able ally at the top of the order in Hasini Perera, who partnered her skipper to a 10-wicket win against England in warm-up game ahead of the tournament. The bowling unit will revolve around the 35-year-old Shashikala Siriwardene.
Bangladesh, who have been a part of the T20 World Cups only since 2014, have only two wins - one against Ireland and the other against Sri Lanka to their name till date. In 2018, they didn’t register a single victory. With Lankans pitted in the same group as theirs, Salma Khatun and Co might fancy their chances but will need a miracle and a half from Rumana Ahmed, Jahanara Alam, Nigar Sultana and Khadija-Tul-Kubra together to achieve anything more than that.
Meanwhile, Thailand's arrival at the big stage has warmed the cockles of the hearts of many, if they manage to sneak a win in their maiden outing it might well be an icing on the cake. Their best chance would be against Pakistan.
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