Dubai: The wait is over as the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2023 kicks off with South Africa hosting the showpiece for the first time. A total of 23 matches to be held before the next champions are crowned.
Hosts South Africa take on Sri Lanka in the opener in Newlands on Friday with the final again slotted for February 26.
Former former Indian women’s team coach W.V. Raman feels the beaten 2020 finalists have a good chance and India’s fortunes depends on the form and performance of all-rounder Pooja Vastrakar, especially her pace bowling.
“India stand a very good chance and in a T20 format it takes a very good half an hour for any team to overcome their opponents. They have some explosive batters and the spin department is also good while the pace bowling has become stronger,” said the former Indian opener told Gulf News in an exclusive interview.
Big news for Team India
“Renuka Singh has embraced international cricket extraordinarly well in the last year and the return of Pooja Vastrakar as a bowler is a big news for Indian team. The fortunes of the Indian team would depend on her performance and her form, because the flexibility that she gives and the match-winning performances that she had churned out in the last 18-20 months as an all-rounder will bear testimony to what I am saying. So a lot will hinge on her being fit and her being in top of her game in the World Cup.”
Another key player for India will be young Shafali Verma, who only last month guided India to victory in the Under-19 World Cup. Barely two weeks later, the 19-year-old batter is back in South Africa to help India in their bid to win the women’s T20.
2016: West Indies
However, defending champions Australia, who beat India in a thrilling final in Melbourne in 2020, will be the team to beat as the five-time champions have the experience and the stength to overcome the rest of the field, that is closing in on their rivals, as he analysed the teams that will be competing for the coveted trophy.
Australia may have stumbled against Ireland in a warm-up match in the build-up to the World Cup 2023, but Meg Lanning’s side have remarkable depth and have been in imperious form in recent times, losing just once — via a super over — in the past 13 months.
“Australia will always be ahead of everybody, for the simple reason, they have tremendous consistency as a team. Each and eveyone of their players could be a match-winners, who have the experience being part of the World Cup winning squad twice or thrice. So they know at what stage they need to step on the pedal,” said Raman, who guided Indian women’s team between 2018-2021.
“England traditionally have been a very good side and know how to play as a team. India is one team that everybody is wary of. Outside of these three it is difficult to predict as there is a phenomenal amount of talent in all the other sides. West Indies have some unbelievable strikers. Bangladesh almost surprised Australia in the 50-over World Cup in New Zealand, then Pakistan could surprise any team. Rest of the pack have some outstanding talent,” he added.
Raman made his Test debut in the historic Test against West Indies at his hometown in Chennai when leg-spinner Narendra Hirwani equalled Bob Massie’s record of 16 wickets in his debut in 1988. The left-handed all-rounder feels that women’s cricket need more matches and is becoming more exciting to watch these close contests.
“The quality of cricket is really improving so much so that what would be 120-130 as an average score has gone up to 160 now. The strike rates, the scoring rate and the pace of the game improved and these girls have started hitting long balls. Contrary to what people believe, it is exciting to watch women’s cricket now and is becoming lot more interesting and exciting to watch them play. The pace of the game will only get faster and faster.
Players to Watch
Beth Mooney picked up Player of the Tournament honours in 2020 and remains a consistent source of runs at the top of the Australian order, while all-rounder Tahlia McGrath has become a key cog in their machine.
India’s Smriti Mandhana and South Africa’s Laura Wolvaardt each have cover drives to turn heads in their armoury and are likely to be in the leading run-scorer conversation, along with the evergreen and in-form Suzie Bates of New Zealand.
England have been boosted by a seamless return to the international arena for Nat Sciver-Brunt, among the game’s leading all-rounders, and her teammate Sophie Ecclestone arrives ranked top of the MRF Tyres ICC Women’s Rankings for T20I Bowlers.
Ecclestone’s fellow left-arm spinner Nonkululeko Mlaba looks ready to shine on home turf and, at 22, is one of several young stars aiming to make a name for themselves.
That list also includes eighteen-year-old duo Marufa Akter, Bangladesh’s exciting seamer, and hard-hitting Pakistan batter Ayesha Naseem, while Ireland skipper Gaby Lewis already has eight years of international experience behind her at the age of just 21.
Harshitha Samarawickrama is among Sri Lanka’s brightest hopes while West Indies will need experienced all-rounders Hayley Matthews – so influential when they won this competition in 2016 – and Stafanie Taylor to be at their best if they are to go far.
A: Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh
B: England, India, Pakistan, West Indies, Ireland
Note: Group winners and runners-up qualify for semi-finals
Group A stages several early blockbusters, with New Zealand set to give Australia a tough start to the defence of their trophy on February 11 before the White Ferns take on South Africa two days later in a match set to be crucial to both sides’ chances of qualification.
World Cup matches between India and Pakistan are never dull and February 12 is the date for the latest episode in Group B. India’s clash with England on February 18, meanwhile, could be pivotal in deciding who tops the group.
The semi-finals take place on February 23 and 24 before the final on February 26, with all three knockout games at Newlands to conclude what looks set to be a tournament to savour.
Women’s T20 World Cup match schedule (all times GMT)
February 10: South Africa v Sri Lanka, Cape Town (1700)
February 11: West Indies v England (1300), Australia v New Zealand (1700), both Paarl
February 12: India v Pakistan (1300), Bangladesh v Sri Lanka (1700), both Cape Town
February 13: Ireland v England (1300), South Africa v New Zealand (1700), both Paarl
February 14: Australia v Bangladesh, Gqeberha (1700)
February 15: West Indies v India (1300), Pakistan v Ireland (1700), both Cape Town
February 16: Sri Lanka v Australia, Gqeberha (1300)
February 17: New Zealand v Bangladesh (1300), West Indies v Ireland (1700), both Cape Town
February 18: England v India (1300), South Africa v Australia (1700), both Gqeberha
February 19: Pakistan v West Indies (1300), New Zealand v Sri Lanka (1700), both Paarl
February 20: India v Ireland, Gqeberha (1300)
February 21: England v Pakistan (1300), South Africa v Bangladesh (1700), both Cape Town
February 23: Semi-final (1st A v 2nd B), Cape Town (1300)
Febuary 24: Semi-final (1st B v 2nd A), Cape Town (1300)
February 26: Final, Cape Town (1300)