The seventh edition of the ICC Women's T20 World Cup will see 10 teams assemble in Australia for the tournament. While there are some established stars and heavyweight teams hogging the limelight ahead of the major T20 tournament, some of the players will be playing a tournament of this stature for the first time. On the one hand, we have seasoned cricketers who'll be playing their third or fourth World T20; on the other, there are teenage prodigies ready to make the step up to the world stage and showcase their talent in front of a wider audience.
Here we look at five inspirational youngsters who have made it to the World Cup for the first time in their careers and could be key figures for their respective sides as the tournament progresses.
Annabel Sutherland (Australia)
"When I became CEO she hadn't even been born. 17 years in the job and 18 years later she gets picked for Australia, so her life has been very much exposed to cricket through what I've been doing."
These words by James Sutherland, former CEO of Cricket Australia, came soon after his daughter, Annabel Sutherland, was picked in the Australian team for the ICC Women's T20 World Cup 2020. Born in a cricketing family, Annabel's brothers Will and Tom were also interested in the sport. Feeding her brothers with balls all day long in the backyard made Annabel learn new bowling tricks and ways to dismiss batters. To get to bat herself, Annabel had to dismiss her brothers and eventually, this made her an all-rounder.
To force herself into the Australian team, tightly packed with superstars from head to toe, was an arduous task in itself. The last year or so, there has been a noticeable change in Annabel's game. A very technical batter, Annabel started striking the ball with greater efficiency. She made her Women's Big Bash League debut as a 15-year old for Melbourne Renegades Women and switched to the Melbourne Stars after which she started gaining attention.
Having been a part of under-19 tours, Australia A team and the National Performance Squad, Annabel adds an extra pace factor in the Aussie line-up for the T20 World Cup. Her ability to hit the deck hard and generate bounce makes her a threat on the Aussie wickets. Recently in the tri-series at home, against England and India, Sutherland played a brilliant cameo on debut against England, her unbeaten 11-ball 22 helping Australia make 40 in the final three overs to force a Super Over. She could be an x-factor for the four-time title winners this World Cup.
Shafali Verma (India)
"Keep chasing your dreams because dreams do come true."
This was Sachin Tendulkar's inspirational message for 16-year old Shafali Verma, India's latest women's cricketing sensation. At 16, she has a long way to go for her dreams to be fulfilled. But, also at 16, a lot of her dreams have already borne fruit. In September 2019, Shafali became the youngest woman to play for India in a T20I game. Two months later, she scored a half-century, the youngest female cricketer to do so for India. She finished that series with an impressive showing that won her the Player of the Series award.
It was nice meeting you too, Shafali.
Hearing from you on how you had travelled all the way to Lahli to see my last Ranji Game & now seeing you play for India is amazing.
Keep chasing your dreams because dreams do come true.
Enjoy the game and always give your best. 👍
— Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt) February 12, 2020
The Haryana batswoman has made 324 runs in 14 T20Is, the notable metric being her incredible strike rate of 140.86. Since her debut in the format, Shafali's tally of runs is only behind Australia's Beth Mooney and her own India teammate, Smriti Mandhana. Of batswomen with 200 or more runs in this time frame, only Sophie Devine and Alyssa Healy have a better strike rate than Shafali.
What Shafali brings to this Indian side is a carefree attitude at the top that has long been missing with this Indian women's side. Alongside Mandhana, Shafali has added flair to the batting line-up, something which showed in her sensational innings of 49 from 28 balls against Australia Women in the recently concluded tri-series in Australia. Notably, Shafali tore apart senior Aussie all-rounder Elysse Perry for three fours in an over. In her first T20 World Cup, all eyes will be on this teenage sensation who could take the tournament by storm.
Sarah Glenn (England)
“It hasn’t sunk in that I’m actually here, training and playing. I still find it hard to believe sometimes."
Sarah Glenn, England's teenage leg-spinner, said recently in an interview. As someone who watched the England Women's team beat India in the 2017 World Cup finals at Lord's, Glenn knows what it feels like to be in the crowd and bask in the glory of your favourite team winning. Now, the tables are reversed. She is on the field for the T20 World Cup in Australia while the crowd will cheer her on.
The leg-spinner was first picked in the senior women's team for the series against Pakistan in Malaysia in December 2019. She rose to prominence in last year's Kia Super League, where her 11 wickets came at an average of 18.72. The leggie played a key role in Loughborough Lightning's run to the semi-finals. Soon after, Glenn earned a national team call-up.
In just her third ODI, Glenn picked up 4 for 18, including the big wicket of Javeria Khan, in a washed-out encounter against Pakistan. The leg-spinner also shone in the tri-series Down Under recently, taking 3 for 28 against a strong Aussie side in the tied game that England won in the Super Over. Glenn picked up the massive wickets of Elysse Perry and Rachel Haynes in the space of three balls to turn the game on its head. She could be a major x-factor for England for the T20 World Cup.
Richa Ghosh (India)
"Whoever may be the bowler, when you have the bat, you can do anything."
At 16 years, Richa Ghosh's words reveal the kind of confidence that India's women cricket team has sorely lacked in the past in this format. A versatile batswoman with a wide range of strokes, Ghosh was a surprise pick in India's T20 World Cup squad for the tournament in Australia. Hailing from West Bengal, Ghosh made a name in the 2020 Women's Challenger Trophy where she finished as the fourth-highest run-getter. Striking at a rate of 113.95, Ghosh stood out with her fearless batting.
Picking up the game from her father, Ghosh was quick to rise through age-group cricket. She broke into the Bengal senior side before turning 13, and in 2018, was named as Bengal's cricketer of the year.
Ghosh isn't a one-dimensional cricketer, something which was proved by her Challenger Trophy performances. Her 98 runs in four matches played a big role in India B's run to the finals. Her 25 off 26 on a slow track against India C, where 94 turned out to be a winning total earned plaudits from all. In the last game of the league stage, Ghosh hit 36 in just 26 balls with her side chasing 149 for a win against India C, even as Smriti Mandhana and Jemimah Rodriques were already back in the hut.
With the India Women's side looking to add some aggression to their batting, Ghosh is an excellent addition. A fearless batter, she is expected to shine if India give her a decent run during the tournament.
Jess Kerr (New Zealand)
"Jess pulled out of nursery-grade cricket, because she thought it was boring."
Father of the Kerr sisters — Amelia and Jess — commented just before the two played their first international game together, an ODI against South Africa two weeks back. Jess, a pace bowler unlike her younger sister and leg-spinner Amelia, shone on her debut by picking up the wicket of experienced Proteas opener Lizelle Lee in a spell of 4-1-23-1.
Nursery-grade cricket was indeed boring for Jess as she had progressed well beyond her age quite early. Even so, while her younger sister became a White Fern in 2016, it took Jess four more years to make a debut.
Her elevation to the national setup came shortly after the Women's Super Smash in 2019/20 where she topped the wickets chart with 20 wickets at an average of 10.30 and two four-wicket hauls. The Wellington Blaze seamer is also a handy bat down the order as her 10-ball 20 cameo in a crucial Super Smash game against Canterbury Magicians showed.
Jess made her T20I debut in the recent series against South Africa women and picked up two for 17 in a three-over spell in just her second game. While her younger sister has made a mark as an all-rounder and figured in the 2018 T20 World Cup, this will be Jess's maiden World Cup. She will hope to translate some of that Super Smash form into a major international cricket tournament as the World Cup gets underway.
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