The countdown to the ODI World Cup in New Zealand early next year is heating up. Five participants - Australia, England, India, New Zealand and South Africa - have already booked their spots in the marquee event. The three remaining spots will be confirmed by early December after the ICC Women's World Cup Qualifier that is starting in Zimbabwe on Sunday (November 21).
Nine teams, divided into two groups, are set to battle it out for a place in the top three . The tournament will kick off with a clash between Pakistan and Bangladesh, while hosts Zimbabwe will face Thailand in game two.
Initially meant to be a 10-team tournament, Papua New Guinea were forced to pull out at the last minute after several players returned positive COVID-19 tests. As a result, Group A will have only four sides while Group B will have five teams. Group A consists of Ireland, Sri Lanka, West Indies, and Netherlands, while Group B includes Zimbabwe, Thailand, Pakistan, USA and Bangladesh.
Women’s CricZone takes a closer look at the teams from Group B ahead of the tournament.
ALSO READ: ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier: Group A - Know the teams
Bangladesh made a successful return to international cricket when they whitewashed Zimbabwe, 3-0, in an ODI series just ahead of the Qualifier. Despite being out of action since the T20 World Cup in Australia last year, this timely series in Zimbabwe will act as a confidence booster for Bangladesh. They haven’t had much experience in the format in recent years, but their spirits will be high when they take the field against Pakistan in the opening fixture. The memory of beating Pakistan in their own backyard the last time the teams met in an ODI will also drive them on.
Bangladesh have a core of players that have been playing together for a while now – albeit in the T20 format – and had some success with an Asia Cup win (in 2018 against India). Despite the difference in format, they will be looking to draw from those experiences to challenge Thailand and Zimbabwe and hopefully join group favourites Pakistan in the Super Six stage. They have a new skipper in wicket-keeper Nigar Sultana and she will be complimented by batters Murshida Khatun, Fargana Hoque and allrounders Salma Khatun, Fahima Khatun and Rumana Ahmed. The bowling department will be headed by Jahanara Alam and left-arm spinner Nahida Akter, both of whom had some success against Zimbabwe in the three-match series.
Allrounder Rumana Ahmed is the most experienced player in the squad with 41 ODI caps to her name. She is Bangladesh’s highest run-getter as well as leading wicket-taker with 843 runs and 44 wickets to her name. Although she didn’t have a big impact in the Zimbabwe series, Bangladesh will be hoping for their top allrounder to come good in the global event. The 30-year-old will be a key figure in providing variation to their bowling attack and also acting as a glue in the middle order.
One to watch
Nahida Akter is only 21, but has already built an impressive resume in international cricket with 74 wickets to her name across formats. The left-arm spinner finished with her career-best figures in the final match against the hosts when she took 5 for 21. She has 24 wickets from 18 ODIs at an average of 17.41 and will lead Bangladesh’s bowling attack alongside pacer Jahanara Alam. With the number of right-handers in Pakistan middle-order, skipper Sultana will be looking towards her to restrict the powerful batting line-up in the opening game.
ALSO READ: Nigar Sultana named skipper of Bangladesh for World Cup qualifier
Squad: Nigar Sultana (captain), Khadija-Tul Kubra, Fahima Khatun, Salma Khatun, Jahanara Alam, Fargana Hoque, Nuzhat Tasnia, Rumana Ahmed, Lata Mondol, Nahida Akter, Murshida Khatun, Ritu Moni, Fariha Islam, Sharmin Akter, Sobhana Mostary
Pakistan were amongst the first sides to resume international cricket after the COVID-19 forced hiatus when they " rel="noopener noreferrer">toured South Africa in early 2021. Even though South Africa won the series 3-0, the visitors fought well against the better-ranked side with Diana Baig taking nine wickets in the series and Aliya Riaz scoring 136 runs. After a cancelled tour of Zimbabwe in February, Pakistan had to wait for another five months for their next assignment.
After losing a series against the hosts West Indies in June 2021, Pakistan made a spectacular comeback in the final two ODIs. The right-arm pacer Fatima Sana took 9 wickets in just two matches to avoid the series whitewash against the hosts. Pakistan would look at the young trio of Sana, Omaima Sohail and wicket-keeper Muneeba Ali, who have shown significant improvement over the last few months if they are to clinch the title.
Recently, Pakistan hosted an international fixture for the first time since 2019 when they hosted West Indies for a three-match series. With a COVID-19 scare in the camp and the withdrawal of one of their important players in Nida Dar Pakistan didn’t quite get the practice they wanted ahead of the World Cup Qualifiers. There were glimpses of some individual brilliance as Anam Amin took a five-wicket haul and Ali registered her highest individual score, but Javeria Khan's side were unable to put together a collectively impressive performance in the series.
Pakistan are slotted in the group with threatening Bangladesh, vastly improved Thailand, hosts Zimbabwe and the impressive USA. Their progress to the next round and eventual spot at the World Cup is dependent on how well the team manages the available resources.
Aliya Riaz has made the most of her opportunities batting at No.6 for Pakistan. She scored a fighting 81 against South Africa earlier this year - a knock that almost saw Pakistan overhaul their target of 253. She played a lone hand twice in taking her side beyond the 200-run mark in the recently concluded series against West Indies. The 29-year-old, if promoted in the batting line-up, can anchor the innings as well as hit out when necessary, as is evident from her performances in the domestic setup. Even though she hasn’t bowled a lot recently, her medium pace could also be useful if conditions suit the swing bowlers.
ALSO READ: Dawn of a new era in Pakistan cricket
One to Watch
20-year-old Fatima Sana has improved a lot since her debut against South Africa in 2019. She was, undoubtedly, the player of the series from the Pakistan point of view when they visited West Indies in July. She took 11 wickets while the next best Pakistan bowler, in terms of wickets, was Nashara Sandhu with five wickets across four matches. She was not able to replicate her performance against the same opposition at home but, she is still one of the quickest bowlers in the world and this can be her tournament with the ball in hand.
Squad: Javeria Khan (captain), Aliya Riaz, Anam Amin, Ayesha Zafar, Diana Baig, Fatima Sana, Iram Javed, Kainat Imtiaz, Muneeba Ali (wicketkeeper), Nashra Sundhu, Nida Dar, Omaima Sohail, Sadia Iqbal, Sidra Amin and Sidra Nawaz (wicketkeeper) Traveling reserves: Aiman Anwar, Maham Tariq and Rameen Shamim.
The rise of Thailand in international cricket is one of the most heartwarming stories in the last decade. After making their mark in the 2020 T20 World Cup, Thailand will be keen on booking their tickets to New Zealand for the 2022 ODI World Cup. They were the top team in the 2019 Asia Qualifiers, winning all six matches they played.
However, Thailand did not play any matches between March 2020 and August 2021 due to the pandemic. Despite not having ample game time, they levelled the unofficial ODI series against Zimbabwe and defeated them in the three-match T20I series. Despite losing the five one-dayers 2-3 against South Africa Emerging in the series after that, they went on to win the T20 series against, 2-1.
Going into the Qualifiers, Thailand will be high on confidence, having played in Zimbabwe not long ago. Skipper Naruemol Chaiwai, Nattakan Chantham and allrounder Nattaya Boochatham were among the top performers for Thailand during their previous expedition in Zimbabwe. If they rise up to the occasion and perform well against the top teams in the group, Thailand have a good chance of qualifying for the next cycle of the ICC Women's ODI Championship.
ALSO LISTEN: Thai talk with coach Harshal Pathak
Nattaya Boochatham will hold the key for Thailand’s campaign in Zimbabwe as the allrounder will play a crucial role in restricting the opponent batters. Boochatham took nine wickets in four matches against Zimbabwe and took 14 scalps in five innings against South Africa Emerging as well.
The off-spinning allrounder will be hoping to have memorable tournament and help Thailand progress to the Super Six stage of the competition. Not just with the ball, the southpaw would be the key batter in the middle-order as well, someone the other teams should be wary of.
One to Watch
With Chantham and Boochatham scoring a bulk of the runs, wicketkeeper-batter Nannapat Koncharoenkai is the one to watch out for from Thailand in the upcoming Qualifiers. The 21-year-old made 194 runs in five innings against South Africa Emerging, including two crucial half-centuries. In Zimbabwe, too, Koncharoenkai was among the top run-getters in both 50-over and T20 formats.
For Associate teams competing with the Full Members, often it is the batting that lets them down. Thailand seem to have a solid top-order with Koncharoenkai delivering every time they are under pressure. Although she does not have a big century to show, Koncharoenkai has often chipped in with the crucial 30s and 40s that have made a difference in the results for Thailand.
Squad: Naruemol Chaiwai (C), Chanida Sutthiruang, Thiapatcha Putthawong, Nannaphat Chaihan, Banthida Leephatthana, Nattakan Chantham, Suleeporn Laomi, Sornnarin Tippoch, Rosenanee Kanho, Wongpaka Liengprasert, Phannita Maya, Nattaya Boochatham, Onnicha Kamchomphu, Nannapat Koncharoenkai (VC), Kanyakorn Bunthansen.
United States of America
USA last played one-day cricket back in 2011 in the ICC Women’s World Cup global qualifiers in Bangladesh, so their experience in the format is limited. However, in their squad are several players - skipper Sindhu Sriharsha, vice-captain Shebani Bhaskar, and Southern Vipers seamer Tara Norris among them - with experience of having played List-A cricket in different parts of the world. They will be expected to guide an otherwise rather young team through uncharted waters.
In their T20 World Cup Americas regional qualifier in Mexico, USA’s young players, including Suhani Thadani, Gargi Bhogle and Anika Kolan showed very promising signs. They all played important roles in the team’s victorious run.
One of the least experienced and least fancied teams in Group B, USA will be hoping they can pull off an upset or two and sneak their way into the Super Six stage. A decade ago, it was a 17-year-old Bhaskar who inspired them to a one-run win over Zimbabwe. One would hope, now 27, the right-hand batter is able to regain that touch.
With plenty of experience playing domestic cricket in England, and having had the opportunity to train as a full-time professional cricketer for a couple of seasons, Tara Norris will play an important role in USA’s performances through the qualifier. The left-arm seamer had a fruitful 2021 domestic season with Southern Vipers and Southern Brave, playing a key part in the team’s Rachale Heyhoe Flint Trophy victory. She took 11 wickets through the 50-over competition at an average of just over 30. Her pace, left-arm angle and change-ups could trouble top order batters across teams. She will be a strike force with the new ball, and USA will hope she is able to consistently get early breakthroughs to give them a sniff of causing an upset.
With the bat, too, Norris could be a handful in a team that has not played one-day cricket in just over a decade. She proved her worth in the RHF trophy final, scoring a crucial unbeaten 40 when the team were under immense pressure.
Having recently made her international debut during the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Americas regional qualifiers, Norris will be far more comfortable around the group - aware of her role and how she can guide what is a rather young bowling group.
ALSO READ: Of bravery and second comings - Sindhu Sriharsha's unconventional path to the top
One to Watch
Making her international debut in the T20 World Cup Americas Qualifiers in Mexico, Suhani Thadani proved herself to be one of USA’s most reliable bowlers through the tournament, taking eight wickets in five matches, including figures of 4 for 6 – the best by a USA bowler in T20Is. Thadani’s consistency through the tournament was a standout. Used as a change bowler, she bowled consistent lines and lengths, always attacking the stumps on a surface that had variable bounce. Only once across five matches did the 15-year-old go wicketless. However, she was miserly as ever, bowling a spell of 4-2-4-0 against Brazil.
Going into the ODI World Cup qualifiers, Thadani will come up against much more accomplished teams who will likely look to put her under pressure. The teenager, however, has so far shown wonderful temperament, holding her own even when the opposition have been on a bit of a roll.
Squad: Sindhu Sriharsha (captain), Shebani Bhaskar, Akshatha Rao, Uzma Iftikhar, Tara Norris, Anika Kolan, Chetnaa Prasad, Moksha Chaudhary, Sara Farooq, Isani Vaghela, Gargi Bhogle, Suhani Thadani, Lisa Ramjit, Geetika Kodali, Mahika Kandanala
Zimbabwe’s introduction to ODI cricket was quite an event. Having been handed Full Member status earlier this year, they played their maiden ODI against Ireland at home in October, managing to pull off victory in a closely contested opening game. However, the hosts were unable to carry that momentum into the rest of the series, going down by big margins over the next three games to concede the series 3-1.
After a month off to address their shortcomings, Zimbabwe began their preparation for the Women’s World Cup Qualifiers with another home series against Bangladesh in Bulawayo. They suffered three crushing defeats against the Nigar Sultana-led side, their batting coming undone against their quality spin attack.
While they may not be able to draw too much motivation from their series results coming into the qualifiers, their recent experience in the ODI format will hold Zimbabwe in good stead. They will be keen to find a place in the Super Six stage and Thailand are likely to be their biggest competition - a team whom they recently faced three-match 50-over series. However, Zimbabwe will also be wary of USA, a side that beat them in a List-A match back in 2011.
Mary-Anne Musonda made a smashing start to her ODI career earlier this year, becoming the first Zimbabwe player since Andy Flower in 1992, to score a century on debut. Her unbeaten 114-ball 103 helped Zimbabwe chase down a challenging total of 254 in their first ever ODI against Ireland.
Unfortunately for Musonda and her team, the skipper wasn’t able to carry that form through the rest of the season, only managing to score 81 more runs in six matches - three each against Ireland and Bangladesh. Despite her underwhelming returns, Zimbabwe will be hoping their captain can step up when the time comes. She will, no doubt, be severely tested against some quality outfits, but if Musonda has shown anything through her international career, it is poise under pressure. She will need it in spades if the hosts are to sneak into the Super Six.
One to Watch
Zimbabwe spinner Loryn Phiri has had a decent 2021. Despite picking up only one wicket across formats in the bilateral series against Thailand in August, Phiri found her form when it mattered most. During the T20 World Cup Africa qualifiers in Botswana, she emerged as the tournament’s highest wicket-taker with 16 scalps in six matches, thus helping Zimbabwe book their place in the global qualifier next year. She took a four-fer against Tanzania in the tournament opener, backed it up with three more wickets against Eswatini, before ripping through the hosts’ batting line up to finish with figures of 5 for 6.
In the ODI assignments against Ireland in Zimbabwe in October-November, she picked up only two wickets in four matches, but if Phiri has shown that once she gets on a bit of a roll, she is difficult to stop.
Squad: Mary-Anne Musonda (captain), Josephine Nkomo, Modester Mupachikwa, Precious Marange, Sharne Mary Mayers, Loryn Phiri, Nyasha Gwanzura Nomatter Mutasa, Loreen Tshuma, Nomvelo Sibanda, Chiyedza Dhururu, Esther Mbofana, Audrey Mazvishaya, Francesca Chipare, Christabel Chatonzwa.