By Jito Tenson
Covid-19 has taken a toll on major events around the world and this tournament was also one of them. Initially meant to start in February 2021, it was postponed by a year due to the pandemic. Thankfully there is no more delay and the awaited tournament is set to start on the fourth of March this year.
The 2022 ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup will be the 12th installment of the competition after it was started way back in 1973. The hosts England won the first tournament and also won three more, with the latest one being the 2017 edition. However, Australia managed to pip them for the most triumphs and sits atop with six titles.
The qualified teams for the tournament
Since the year 2000, the number of participants has been fixed at eight, and there have been no new arrivals. However, the International Cricket Council has revealed that a major change will be made in the 2029 edition by adding two more slots. While that is seven years away, let us focus on the current one and look at the eight qualified teams.
New Zealand was honoured with automatic qualification as a result of them being the hosts. Initially, it was revealed that three teams would qualify from the 2017-2020 ICC Women’s Championship, but it was later changed to four teams plus the hosts. The remaining three spots were to be filled from the outcome of the 2021 Women’s Cricket World Cup Qualifiers, however, due to the concerns regarding the new COVID variant, that was cancelled midway and the teams were allocated via their ODI rankings.
Australia, England, South Africa, and India secured their spot in the World Cup after finishing in the top-4 of the Women’s Championship. It was Australia who won the second edition of this tournament. Pakistan, West Indies, and Sri Lanka were the remaining three from this group that progressed to the Qualifiers.
Since it was cancelled midway, ODI rankings were considered and despite the standings in the Qualifiers, it was Pakistan, West Indies, and Bangladesh who booked the final three spots for the World Cup.
The only team to have lifted the trophy besides Australia and England are hosts to the 2022 ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup. As a result of which, they have earned the automatic qualification to the competition. However, they will also be fighting hard to catch up in terms of trophy counts.
The Men’s World Cup was also hosted in New Zealand and the fan factor played a huge role in their progression. The Women’s side will also be hoping for the same support as they host seven other teams to their home. The Kiwi’s captain, Sophie Devine feels that the journey to their second title can be strengthened by the fans and it can be made a memorable one if they manage to win it.
“(The New Zealand men’s side) really did have the whole country behind them and we’re hoping we can do something similar in igniting the passion that so many Kiwis have for their sport and hopefully they can get behind us as well,” she said. “We know if we play a really exciting brand of cricket that we can get the whole country behind. That’s going to leave a legacy.”
They have established their dominance in the prestigious tournament and Australia is undoubtedly the favourites. What makes them even likely to lift the seventh title will be their disappointing exit in the previous campaign.
A defeat to India saw them bow out in the semi-finals and they are eager to avenge it. “The impacts of the 2017 World Cup have obviously changed the way we play but, from now really moving forward, this World Cup is completely different.
This group that we’ve got here is very different to 2017. I think the majority of the players were not even involved in the tournament, and the majority of the staff also weren’t there,” said Australia’s skipper Meg Lanning.
The reigning women’s champions will be entering the tournament with the sole aim of defending their title. Their win against India five years ago edged them closer to the trophy count of Australia as they clinched their fourth title. However, they will not be lowering their guard and are fully aware of the challenges they will be facing in New Zealand.
Skipper Heather Knight said,” I think the tournament we had in 2017 will give a lot of the players confidence that they can deal with the ebbs and flows of the tournament and know how to be successful in World Cups. In the last couple of years before a World Cup, you are trying to really build to peak at that time. We’ve really tried to be a little bit more aggressive, a little bit more attacking, look to take wickets particularly upfront and through that middle phase.”
Dane van Niekerk was supposed to lead the women’s South African side. However, she has been ruled out of the tournament with a fractured ankle. The 26-year-old Sune Luus has replaced her and she hopes to fill van Niekerk’s absence.
“I think for me it’s key to make it my own. You can’t really be like the person next to you. You’ve got to do what’s right for you and what you feel you need to do. The team is very comfortable with whoever steps into the leadership role. I think there is a level of trust with whoever comes in.”
Talking about how much they aim to progress in the tournament, she said, “I think if we get to the semi-final stage again, we’re going to make sure we push through even if it’s the last thing we do, so we’re going to try our best to get to the final. I think every team here is very competitive and a very strong side, so we’re going to take each team like it comes and play every game like a final.”
The women in Blue were the most disappointed after the last tournament. Having worked their way to the final, a quick collapse from the batting order saw them lose control of the match which eventually led them to a nine-run defeat against England. However, this outcome has also hardened them as they have played plenty of ODI’s in the five years.
Veteran skipper Mithali Raj who will be leading India in the World Cup for the fifth time said,” We’ve tried some young talent in the squad, and most of them have shown that they have the ability to play at this level like Richa (Ghosh), Shafali (Verma), Meghna Singh, (and) Pooja Vastrakar.”
They all have been given good game time, and those series have really helped them and me as a captain to find out where they fit in into the composition of the team. I tell them that you don’t have the experience of the past World Cups, it’s a clean slate for you, all you have to do is enjoy the big stage.”
Making the maiden appearance in the Women’s World Cup is Bangladesh. However, their inexperience should not be considered a weakness. Their success in the 2018 Asian Cup followed by the experience accumulated from the T20I World Cup will act as a confidence booster.
Nigar Sultana has been bestowed with the biggest responsibility as she will be leading her side to their first World Cup. She said, “We have had a lot of quality practice sessions here, we are trying to assess the wicket and, in the conditions, I think our girls have done very well.
We do have some good relations with some of the players so they shared a lot of experience about the conditions and how we’re going to the play here.
I think this is a big opportunity for all of us. We’ve been working so hard for this and this is our first-ever World Cup. I think if we could do well here, it will be a great moment in Bangladesh cricket.”
Heading into the tournament, Pakistan can flaunt the fact that they got the better of the T20I specialist, West Indies in the 2020 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup. They can definitely put the momentum here and hope to make their fourth outing in the tournament a memorable one.
Bismah Maroof who will be leading the side felt the same as she said,” “I think we have a bright future, the mindset has changed in Pakistan and the girls want to play cricket, they want to play professional cricket.
“I hope this World Cup will provide further boost for the women’s game. India-Pakistan is the most followed match around the world, and we definitely want the girls to be inspired and I hope this match is an interesting one. The girls who are looking up to us will be inspired.”
Maroof also mentioned how they will be tackling the inexperienced turf. She said, “The conditions are quite different. As we are used to playing. Quite windy and quite bouncy. I think we had good practice sessions but these warm-up games will help us get used to the conditions and help us prepare well.”
West Indies are the opponents for the hosts in the inaugural match on 4th March. The side led by Stafanie Taylor has prepared efficiently for this tournament by visiting England, Pakistan and South Africa during the pandemic years.
“It was really nice to kickstart (plans for the World Cup) going to England. It wasn’t the type of cricket we’d like to play being in the bubble, but we knew what the situation was.
“I believe we are in a good place to kickstart our campaign. I think we’re making strides (in the ODI format). For us, it is more about improving every time and getting better at that. We’re pretty excited about that. You probably wouldn’t want to play the hosts in the first game but it is what it is. I think for us, we have to go out there and play to the best of our abilities. You can see New Zealand doing pretty well, we’ve had a lot of cricket to look at, so hopefully, we could get one over them.”
While they have dominated the T20I formats, the 50-over format has been a worry. However, they could get a huge boost in the World Cup if they manage to upset the hosts in the opening fixture.