Harmanpreet Kaur of India, along with other captains at the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup, posed for a photo on the eve of the T20 World Cup against one of the most appropriate backdrops of Table Mountain in Cape Town. To achieve where they are now, female players all across the world have symbolically scaled many mountains.
Kaur, who hails from Punjab’s drug infested Moga district, was fortunate enough to be born into a modern family that valued athletics. But her father Harmandar’s acquaintances would advise her to pick singles rather than try for major smashes. They assumed that she wouldn’t be able to hit that far as a girl.
How misguided they were. As Kaur developed into a sixer beast and after she produced an incredible 171 not out in the 2017 World Cup (50 overs) semi-final match against Australia, perceptions quickly altered.
“I think that was just the momentum we needed for this World Cup and to just bring the focus back to cricket and this tournament. It’s all about the tournament. We’re very much focused on the task at hand. I think there’s always going to be noise outside of the cricket field,” said a poised Sune Luus, the South Africa captain as she wishes to step into the tournament with much confidence on the shoulders.
The India-Pakistan rivalry will enter a new phase at Newlands, and while the game may have more significance for the supporters of either team, Bismah Maroof just wants her team to perform to their capabilities.
Kaur reassured sceptics that India, ranked fourth in the world, would focus on the task at hand as they attempted to win their first World Cup at the senior level.
“The World Cup is more important than anything else,” she said. “Our focus is on the ICC trophy. These things [like the WPL auction] will keep coming, and as a player, you know what’s important for you and how you need to keep your focus. We are all mature enough and know what is important for us.”
“We’re really happy that our under-19 team did really well, and we are also looking forward to our campaign. The winning momentum has started. We also want to continue with that,” she added.
White Ferns captain Sophie Devine says her team is eager for their first-up match against Australia and that they will be well-prepared for a successful season after facing the reigning champions.
Australia, however, recently welcomed back the rested Meg Lanning to serve as team captain, soundly defeating Pakistan in last domestic summer series.
There are still uncharted waters, even for her all-conquering crew. Lanning and her side have never participated in an international cricket match in South Africa; the Australian women’s team last played there in 2005.
Anyone expecting Lanning and Australia are taking the tournament for granted would be discontented because they have more drive than ever.
“T20 World Cups in particular are extremely hard to win. You need a lot to go right and you need to play your best cricket, because there’s so many good teams out there who can take it away from you on any day. We are up for the challenge. We know it’s going to be difficult, but we’re certainly coming here to win,” says Sophie.
After a string of poor performances, the West Indies captain will lock horns with England first up in the T20 World Cup in South Africa. A slew of injuries during their preparations only served to make them more resilient.
Although the outcome of their campaign may depend on her performance, the 24-year-old believes that because Chinelle Henry, Aaliya Alleyne, and Stafanie Taylor are back and the Under-19 squad has added young, their best is yet to come.
On the other faced, England skipper, Heather Knight is much confident and believes her squad is ready for the bash at the world cup. She remarks, “We had 10 days in Pretoria playing against New Zealand, getting used to the conditions and just reconnecting with how we’re going to go about it.”
While other games in the opening round of the tournament may garner more attention, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka will like their chances against one another in an intriguing contest.
If either team want to advance further in the league stage, they would almost surely need to win here. Bangladesh captain Nigar Sultana acknowledged that winning the game would help her team’s journey in the World Cup.
“We’re looking for a great win against Sri Lanka, and after that we can get momentum through the tournament, and we can play semi-finals. We can show ourselves how capable we are and as a team, if we perform the way we can, we can beat any team,” said the Bangladesh skipper.
Ireland, the last team to play in this T20 World Cup, will be a keen observer before their opening match against England on February 13 in Paarl.
The team led by Laura Delany played well in the qualifying round to secure one of the two slots in the UAE, narrowly losing to Bangladesh in two games that were very tight, then went on to defeat Pakistan in a bilateral series away from home in November.
Delany hopes to make a splash in South Africa after his victory over Australia in a warm-up match made headlines throughout the world.
“As a group we’re growing with each performance, and I think we took a lot of confidence from that T20 series win against Pakistan in Pakistan. It was in tough conditions, but everything is heading in the right direction, the girls are putting in really good performances and there’s a great vibe and energy around the group at the moment,” Delany concluded.