The ICC World Twenty 20 is being held in India for the first time. The intention of having women and the men’s competition simultaneously provides a great pedestal for the women's game.
When the Indian women won their first game in Australia in January 2016, and the men followed it up with a convincing win at the same venue on Republic Day, the country woke up the next day to newspaper headlines like never before. Women got to share space in almost all dailies, even if it was mere mention.
Wow! The Indian women also won! Women lead the way! Such comments and statements hogged the limelight the whole week. In fact, women's cricket had become a point of discussion in corporate corridors. After all, the women had just won a series defeating the three-time world T20 champions in their in own backyard. Largely, the impact was created due to live broadcast of the matches. It’s not always that sports channels show the women's games, but the steady rise in awareness and popularity of the women's sport has created this difference.
And yes, of course, largely due to the support of the International Cricket Council (ICC), which is promoting the women's sport regularly and the BCCI for bringing in welcome changes for the women. Introduction of central contracts and the grading system for players, which is a welcome step. The remuneration, player fees for matches, series and camps has increased, the accessibility to all the sporting facilities throughout the country is easier and more welcoming. So, it’s a rosy picture.
The ICC World Twenty 20 is being held in India for the first time. The intention of having women and the men’s competition simultaneously provides a great pedestal for the women's game. Also, the fact that a few double headers apart from only the semis and finals being televised gives opportunity to showcase talent to larger audiences. Thirteen in comparison to three matches being televised till last World T20 shows the growing popularity.
The Australian team has had a tough run coming into the World T20 this time as they lost a series to India and then to New Zealand. However, the three-time world champions (2010, 2012, 21014) are far from being not starting as favourites. The experience of the team to perform at big tournaments is known over the years. The world No. 1 batter and skipper Meg Lanning, the poster girl and the matchwinner in Ellyse Perry and the experience of Alex Blackwell will be forces to reckon with.
England, which won the inaugural world T20 in 2009, would be keen to get its hands on the trophy again. Skipper Charlotte Edwards, who is a legend in women's cricket, is the highest run scorer in world cups. Sarah Taylor who has the credentials of being the first woman to play in men’s grade cricket in Australia, can win you the game both with the bat and with her wicketkeeping skills.
New Zealand women lost the ODI series in India last year, but won the T20 series. A double international in skipper Suzie Bates and the hard-hitting pace bowling all-rounder in Sophie Devine will take this experience into their quest for the title.
West Indies have made it to all the three previous semifinals. The team whose core players have been together for the past few years and young side is led by Stephanie Taylor, who is also the ICC T20 international cricketer. Deandra Dottin, who people also refer to as female version of Chris Gayle, will be a key support with her all-round abilities.
South Africa, led by Mignon du Preez, will have the experience of wicketkeeper Trisha Chetty. The two players to watch out for will be Marizanne Kapp, the pace bowling all-rounder and Dane van Niekerk, top order batswoman and leg spinner.
The Sri Lankan team played and lost the series to India just prior to the start of World T20. Shashikala Siriwardene has been a stalwart and will be leading the team. With Chamari Atapattu, the stylish left hander, and Eshani Lokusuriyage, the big hitter, the team is capable of springing a surprise to any of the teams in the contest.
India would sense a great opportunity at home to make amends of their last two T20 shows and of their missed opportunity during the 2013 (50-over) World Cup. A win and, more so, a positive impact will help raise the bar of women's sport in the country and encourage the younger generation. It will also help ICC globalise the sport faster, with different teams claiming a stake at the highest level like in the men’s competition.