India have been drawn in Group Two, along with traditional rivals Pakistan, England, Ireland and the West Indies when the Women’s T20I World Cup starts later this week in South Africa.
They will be hoping to go one stage further than they did in 2020 when they got to the final, only to lose to Australia in the final.
Many of the players, both from India and other nations, will also regard this as an ideal opportunity to put themselves in the shop window, with the new Indian T20 franchise competition starting in March.
Good performances in the tournament will drive up their price at auction and also see previously little-known talent given their opportunity on a bigger stage.
The ten qualified teams have been split into two groups of five teams, each of whom will play each other on a round-robin basis. The top two teams in each group will advance to the semi-finals. Should there be a tie in terms of number of points earned, then the order will be determined by Net Run Rate.
India will be considered among the favourites, not only to progress from the group, but to challenge for the title for the first time.
They have an excellent and varied bowling attack with players like Deepti Sharma, Radha Yadav and Renuka Singh (who was named ICC Emerging Women’s Player of the Year for 2022), whilst in their batting line-up they can boast the talents of captain Harmanpreet Kaur, Shafali Verma and Smriti Mandhana.
And, if they are looking for favourable omens, they need look no further than the performance of their under-19 side, led by Verma, who have recently won their version of the World Cup on South African soil.
However, they lost in the final of the recent tri-nation series that also featured the West Indies, to the hosts South Africa.
England could well be India’s closest challengers in Group Two, and currently sit second in the ICC T20I rankings.
The initial winners of the trophy back in 2009, they have been a consistent force in the format for some years and should never be discounted.
They welcome back Nat Sciver-Blunt, the ICC Women’s and ODI Player of the Year, who returned to the team in December after taking a mental health break from the sport.
Charlotte Edwards will continue to lead the side.
Ireland booked their place after coming through the T20 World Cup qualifiers.
It is their fourth World Cup appearance, but, although they are one of the underdogs, there is no need for them to be overawed, having recently beat the home nation Pakistan in a T20 series.
Their male side pulled off their fair share of shocks last autumn in the World Cup, and it would be no surprise if their female equivalents managed at least one upset.
Pakistan do not come into the World Cup in the best of spirits, having lost series to Australia and Ireland in recent months.
It means that they are going to have to look to their experienced players to step up, and lead the way, and both Maroof, their highest run scorer in T20 cricket, and Nida Dar, their leading wicket-taker, will have big roles to play.
The West Indies
In 2016, the West Indies produced one of the biggest shocks in the history of women’s cricket when they beat Australia in the final to win the trophy.
Expecting them to emulate that feat may asking too much, but they have a good blend of experience with players like Stafanie Taylor, Afy Fletcher and Shemaine Campbelle in their team, combined with some of the talents from their World Cup under-19 side. Trishan Holder, Zaida James and Djeneba James are among the players to watch.
The fact that they lost all four of their round-robin matches in the Tri-nation series may be of concern to their supporters though.
Although the tournament itself begins on Friday, 10th February, the first match in Group Two will take place the following day when England take on the West Indies in Paarl.
India are first in action on Sunday when they face Pakistan at Newlands in Cape Town, an eagerly awaited clash as it always is whenever the two great rivals meet.
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