ICC Women's T20 World Cup 2020: How the teams stack up

From an Indian point of view, there is the promise of a different approach under coach W. V. Raman, and the presence of a few talented young players has raised the prospect of a successful tournament.

Defending champion: Australian women celebrate after defeating England in the final of last edition’s T20I World Cup. The Aussies will be hoping to retain the title again, this time at home.   -  AFP

 

The second semifinal of the 2018 ICC Women’s World T20 had been billed as a grudge-match, an opportunity for India to seek revenge for the previous year’s World Cup final, a chance to right the wrongs of Lord’s. But the outcome in Antigua that evening was not a whole lot different. India seemed to panic under pressure yet again, crashing from 89 for two to 112 all out. England cruised home with 17 balls to spare, eight wickets in hand. It was a thrashing.

What followed afterwards was an ugly post-mortem, a bitter, public airing of grievances as India’s decision to omit Mithali Raj from the playing XI exploded into a controversy. Fifteen months on, it is a seemingly happier, reinvigorated Indian side that begins its campaign to lift the 2020 Women’s T20 World Cup in Australia. There is the promise of a different approach under coach W. V. Raman, and the presence of a few talented young players has raised the prospect of a successful tournament.

Confident: India captain Harmanpreet Kaur and coach W. V. Raman addressing a press conference prior to the team’s departure for the Women’s T20 World Cup.   -  Prashant Nakwe

 

At the team’s departure press-conference in Mumbai, Harmanpreet Kaur addressed the issue of remaining composed under stress. “We were quite close in the last two World Cups, the only thing we need to keep in mind is how to handle pressure in the tournaments,” she said. “This time, rather than thinking we are going for a big tournament, we just want to focus on our skills. That will be important for us and when we focus on these things, we produce better results.”

India’s results in the shortest format since the end of the 2018 World T20 have not been spectacular, with the team suffering series defeats at the hands of New Zealand and England. But emphatic series wins against South Africa and West Indies thereafter have restored hope.

India’s top four, in Shafali Verma, Smriti Mandhana, Jemimah Rodrigues and Harmanpreet looks as solid as it ever has. Rodrigues has, over the last year or so, turned into a batting mainstay; since the start of 2019, she is India’s second-highest scorer in T20Is and third-highest scorer in ODIs. Harmanpreet’s form has been indifferent but her class is not in doubt. Shafali, handed a call-up at the age of 15, was excellent in the T20 Challenger Trophy, where she smashed an unbeaten 48-ball-89 in the final. Mandhana has been India’s leading scorer, by some distance, across formats since the end of the 2018 World T20. She is, without doubt, the side’s most important batter. All-rounders Deepti Sharma, Pooja Vastrakar and Shikha Pandey add depth, while Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Radha Yadav and Pooja Yadav provide spin-bowling options.

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India defeated England in the opening match of the Tri-Nation Women’s T20 Series in Canberra, but its challenges in the T20 World Cup will be significant. Australia and England, the teams who have more final appearances in the tournament than anyone else, will be the leading contenders again. Australia, the defending champion and the world’s top-ranked team, has won four of the tournament’s last five editions and is, in many eyes, the favourite to lift the title again. This is a strong outfit, with three of the world’s finest batters in Meg Lanning, Alyssa Healy and Beth Mooney. Megan Schutt is the world’s top-ranked T20I bowler and the remarkable Ellyse Perry the world’s best all-rounder. As the host, Australia could be under pressure, but few would bet against the side not being able to overcome it.

In last year’s Women’s Ashes, Lanning’s women trounced England, with the latter winning only one out of seven matches across formats. But Heather Knight’s side is now a rejuvenated outfit. “We’ve made a lot of changes since the Ashes,” she said, ahead of England’s departure for Australia. “We’ve really changed how we go about things as a side. We’ve taken more ownership as individuals in the team and we’re really clear about how we want to go about things moving forward.”

Knight led from the front in the second match of the Tri-Nation Women’s T20 Series, smashing a 45-ball-78 before hammering Ellyse Perry in the Super Over as her side defeated Australia. It will give England a huge boost in confidence leading up to the T20 World Cup.

New Zealand, led by Sophie Devine, will be eager to make a mark in Australia after failing to advance to the semifinals of the previous edition. The side has been grouped alongside Australia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India, which might make life difficult again, but there is experience in Devine and Suzie Bates, the world’s top-ranked T20I batter, while fast bowler Lea Tahuhu has returned to action after taking a break for the birth of her daughter.

Sophie Devine.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

West Indies began the previous edition, on home soil, with a bang, winning four out of four in the group stages, but Stafanie Taylor’s women stumbled against Australia in the semifinals. Taylor has returned to the side for this tournament after an injury lay-off, as has veteran all-rounder Deandra Dottin. The Caribbeans are in Group B, with England, South Africa, Thailand and Pakistan.

Thailand’s qualification is a remarkable story. Cricket barely has a presence in the country but the Thais produced a shock in the Qualifier tournament in Scotland last year, defeating Papua New Guinea in the semifinals to head to their first-ever global event in the sport. The captain, Sornnarin Tippoch, comes from a softball background, as do several of her teammates; the Cricket Association of Thailand has been instrumental in recruiting such players.

“Maybe five years ago, nobody would really care about what we’d be doing but now it’s getting more coverage on social media, the world is taking recognition,” Tippoch told the ICC last year. “It rubs off on other people. It’s about having the same end goal, working hard in what you believe in, trying to achieve it as a team. Everyone has that general focus on what we’re trying to do.”

After Harshal Pathak, a former batting coach for Harmanpreet, was appointed coach of Thailand in November 2018, the team has grown by leaps and bounds. “When I joined I didn’t have to find anybody, they were already there,” he told the ICC. “They were talented, they had the ability to do what it takes to get to a higher level, it was just the fine tuning that we did. Of course we worked on some technical aspects which needed to be improved and more consistency. We have now gone in a correct direction with a correct purpose.”

Thailand may not win any games at the T20 World Cup, but its mere presence at the tournament is a triumph for women’s cricket.

Hoping for record turnout

The final of the Women’s T20 World Cup is scheduled to be played on International Women’s Day — March 8 — at the MCG. Organisers are hoping the record for the highest turnout at a women’s sporting match — currently held by the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, which hosted 90,185 people for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final between USA and China in 1999 — will be broken. It would be no surprise to see that happen.