With just four days to go, the adrenaline is already pumping as India prepare to face hosts Australia in the tournament opener of ICC Women’s T20 World Cup in Sydney. The 2020 edition is already billed as the biggest in terms of numbers and is expected to be closely fought one. All the ten skippers assembled for the official captains’ media day in Sydney on Monday (February 17) and spoke about the hopes, dreams and expectations of their respective teams going into the mega event.
Having defeated India in the final of the recently-concluded T20I tri-series, Australia will look to continue their winning momentum and skipper Meg Lanning wants her team to enjoy the 'surreal' experience of playing at home.
“We’re looking forward to getting started, it’s great that we get to reach out to all our fans across the country and they’ll get the chance to see what will be an amazing tournament,” Lanning said. “It’s a once-in-a-career opportunity to play in a home World Cup, there are pressure and expectation in that but every team wants to win, as we do.”
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The opening game will be a rematch of their final group game in 2018 between India and Australia and India skipper Harmanpreet Kaur, said her side is excited by the challenge in front of them. “Our team is growing day by day, everyone is looking so positive," Kaur said. “It’s going to be very big if we win, I was very surprised at all the reaction from 2017. If we win, it’s going to be very big for us. We will try to give our best.”
Placed in Group A, Sri Lanka are ready to battle with skipper Chamari Atapattu, one of the key players going around who has a good record against Australia. “I just play my natural game, I always took myself as a positive cricketer, playing freely – and that’s all there is to it,” she said. “We’re going to try to play positive cricket – our dream is to get into the semi-finals.”
On the other hand, New Zealand will be looking to better their 2018 (eliminated in the round-robin stage) performance and make amends this time around. For Sophie Devine, who has been in blistering form recently, it will be her first ICC event as a captain of the side.
“Captaincy is a huge honour, but I’m a player like all the rest of my team, so I’ve got to keep doing my job and performing for my teammates,” said the allrounder. “I know cricket can be a really fickle game – you’ve got to ride the highs and lows of it and if I can stay nice and calm, it makes it even more special.”
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Bangladesh, who have never crossed league stage in any of the three T20 World Cups they have played in are keen to improve on their record in the event. Skipper Salma Khatun is, however, optimistic about her team’s chances.
“The Asia Cup (win) was a great experience, but the focus is now on the World Cup. We want to be focusing on New Zealand and Australia,” she said. “Our U-19 men’s side won the World Cup recently and we are looking forward to getting started.”
Meanwhile, Group B features England and West Indies, champions of 2009 and 2016 edition respectively. England skipper Heather Knight was not part of the 2009 squad but feels this event is similar to the 2017 50-over World Cup which they won.
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“We had a great experience in 2017, which was unique in terms of expectation,” Knight stated. “There’s a lot of momentum in this competition, similar to then. I went for coffee in Sydney and saw Ellyse Perry’s face on the side of three different buses!”
Meanwhile, West Indies captain Stafanie Taylor is looking to once again perform well in the showpiece event. West Indies were eliminated by Australia in the semifinals in 2018 and are hoping to return the favour this time around. “We’re really trying to focus on our own game and playing our best cricket,” Taylor quipped. “We’ve been playing indoors a lot because of the awful weather so we’re looking forward to getting going.”
South Africa skipper Dane van Niekerk is happy that her team is back at full-strength and ready to battle it out as underdogs. Van Niekerk is taking inspiration from Siya Kolisi who led South Africa to victory in the Men’s Rugby World Cup. “If we do something special such as Siya, it would be a dream come true and that’s what makes it special,” she admitted.
Like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, Pakistan are another team that have never progressed beyond the first round in T20 World Cups. With the squad looking balanced this time, Pakistan captain Bismah Maroof feels they are well prepared for the tournament. “It’s important for us to get the right mindset, we’re working on the mental side of our game and so we want to be in a good frame of mind ahead of the first game,” Maroof said. “We are missing big moments in the World Cups, we need to create chances for ourselves, live in the moment and try not to think about the big stage.”
Last but not the least, newbies Thailand are the team to look out for in this edition. Having qualified for the tournament for the first time, they no doubt come into the event as underdogs, but they will bring a great deal of passion and excitement to the tournament. Led by Sornnarin Tippoch, Thailand are already winning hearts with their smiles and exuberance.
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“I’m nervous now! We’re really excited to be involved for the first time. We will look to play our best cricket and we’ll show how we play the game,” said Tippoch. “People back home don’t know me, some people know cricket but it’s not on the television. They will follow us on Instagram and Facebook and will know about our game.”