Kolkata: “Every team has something to aim for.” This line in the ICC media release for the Women’s World Cup Qualifiers beginning on February 7 speaks volumes of the all-inclusive nature of the tournament. What further adds weight to the fact that the relatively new teams like Papua New Guinea and Thailand would go toe-to-toe with top-ranked teams like India and South Africa.
The above- mentioned four teams would join six other teams – Pakistan, Ireland, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Scotland, and hosts Sri Lanka to battle it out in the ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifiers. All these teams would compete against one other to grab spots in the ICC Women’s World Cup-the biggest competition in women’s cricket, scheduled to be held in the months June-July in England.
One team would get the gold on February 21 and would qualify for the main tournament and also the ICC Women’s Championship along with three other teams. Two more teams would join them in the Super Six stage and would automatically be assured of an ODI status for the next cycle. The teams that wouldn’t qualify would gain some invaluable experience which would do wonders for improving the quality of women’s cricket back in their own countries. Hence, every team has something to aim for.
This is what the captains of the participating teams had to say before the qualifiers-
Sana Mir, Pakistan’s captain said, “The last time (Pakistan played the tournament) we qualified for the final, but weren’t able to finish the final well. That will be our target in this qualifier.” Sharne Mayers, Zimbabwe’s captain said, “This tournament is very big for us. We have to do well and put Zimbabwe women’s cricket back on the map. We do well and more women’s cricket will be played back home. Thanks to Sri Lanka for hosting us. It’s always nice to come to this beautiful country.”
South Africa’s captain, Dane van Niekerk said, “It’s really hot!” We are looking forward to the challenge. It will be really good cricket. May the best team win.” Just like the Proteas, Ireland, Scotland and Zimbabwe have too put in the hard yards to get used to the hot conditions in the island nation-Sri Lanka.
Laura Delany, the Ireland captain said, “The humidity is something we’re not familiar with. The wickets are slightly slower than we’re used to. It’s just up to us to adjust as soon as we can.” Mithali Raj, the Indian captain said, “We’ve got a few injuries in the side. This also gives an opportunity for the young talent in our side, who’ve just come in for the qualifiers, to see how they progress. We definitely are looking forward for the matches.”
Even before the tournament has started, injuries have already made their mark and have ruled out the likes of Indian speedsters Jhulan Goswami and Sukanya Parida. They have been replaced by Manasi Joshi and Soni Yadav. Wait, there’s more in the list. Pakistani left-arm tweaker Amam Amin, wicket-keeper Sidra Nawaz and batswoman Sidra Ameen have been ruled out owing to injuries and have made way for Rabiya Shah, left-arm spinner Sadia Yousuf and left-handed batswoman Muneeba Ali. Bangladesh too have a set of injury-striken players in the form of Lata Mundol and Fahima Khatun and thus they make way for Shaila Sharmin and Murshida Khatun.
All the teams would like to start off on a winning note. South Africa, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and Thailand would look to ride on the momentum they gained from the victory of the warm-up matches and would be upbeat about their chances of going ahead into the tournament.