After watching all of warm-up week in Lincoln, LockerRoom cricket columnist Kristy Havill gives a snapshot of the eight teams vying for the Cricket World Cup starting at the Bay Oval today.
In alphabetical order:
Captain: Meg Lanning
Australia have tried to brush off the favourites tag and put the limelight on England, who are the defending champions. But when your record is 31 wins from the 33 ODIs you’ve played since the 2017 World Cup, you are most certainly the favourites.
Jam-packed full of superstars, the likes of Alyssa Healy, Meg Lanning and Ellyse Perry to name a few, on paper there is no question they have the best depth and strength across their entire squad.
But it’s not about how you perform between World Cups, it’s all about the tournament itself. Can Aussie right the wrongs of 2017, or will they succumb to the pressure from being laden with such huge expectations?
Player to watch: Tahlia McGrath forced her way back into the Australian set-up last year and has rewarded the selectors with two player of the series accolades against India and in the Ashes. Regardless of whether she’s got bat or ball in hand, everything she has been touching of late has turned to gold.
Captain: Nigar Sultana Joty
This tournament is a watershed moment for the Bangladesh team, as they take their inaugural bow at an ODI World Cup. They’ve made great strides in the T20 format over the last few years, competing at a couple of World Cups, but the team are excited to be testing themselves against the best in the longer format.
They hadn’t played any ODI cricket from the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic until November 2021, but make no mistake – they are not here to make up the numbers. When asked as to whether there were any particular teams or players they were looking forward to going up against, captain Nigar Sultana Joty emphasised they were taking one match at a time and not getting too far ahead of themselves.
Player to watch: Ritu Moni was one of Bangladesh’s standout bowlers during warm-up week with her right arm medium pace. Snaring a couple of wickets against a quality England line-up would have been a big highlight for her, before claiming team-best figures of 3-35 from nine overs against Pakistan.
Captain: Heather Knight
A couple of clinical wins over Bangladesh and South Africa during warm-up week will have restored some of England’s confidence after a tough Ashes series where they failed to win a match. They’ve arrived in New Zealand with a steely look in their eyes, determined to prove they deserve to be in the same conversation as Australia as title contenders.
They won’t settle for anything less than going back-to-back, but they will face a fired-up Australian side first-up in an Ashes rematch in Hamilton on Saturday. One concern England may have is in the event of an injury to any of their batters, they are rather light when it comes to depth in the squad – instead opting to have a lot of bowling cover.
Player to watch: Tammy Beaumont was player of the tournament in her side’s victorious run in 2017, and has been in a good vein of form over the last 12 months, averaging 51.09 across 14 matches. She enjoyed a profitable tour of New Zealand last year with scores of 71, 72 not out and 88 not out, so will be hoping to carry on that form.
Captain: Mithali Raj
A battle-hardened Indian side will be looking to go one better in 2022, after stunning Australia in the semifinals in 2017, before losing a nail-biter to England in the final at Lord’s. Having also made the final of the 2020 T20 World Cup, the world is waiting for India to go all the way and secure their maiden ICC title.
Not only would it be a huge result for another team to enter the winner’s circle in women’s cricket, but it would also accelerate the rate of investment into women’s cricket by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). India is a goldmine of untapped talent, and with more resources to grow the game at the grassroots, as well as the likes of a Women’s IPL, it would be revolutionary for cricket around the world.
The women in blue are laden with talent, and a couple of long-serving legends in the form of captain Mithali Raj and bowler Jhulan Goswami. This could be the swansong for both players, with Raj having played since 1999 and Goswami since 2002. Watching those two possibly bring down the curtain on such esteemed careers in our backyard will be a privilege.
Player to watch: Smriti Mandhana is up there with the very best, and will be a key figure to India’s success when she opens the batting. Keep an eye out for when she starts dancing down the wicket to go aerial against the spinners – it’s a sight to behold.
Captain: Sophie Devine
Before the ODI series win against India, cricket pundits and fans around the country were shifting about nervously in their seats when it came to discussing the White Ferns’ prospects for this tournament. It was important for the general interest of the New Zealand public in their home World Cup that the White Ferns performed well in the five-match series, and they delivered in style.
The team has also certainly put the tournament on notice after their demolition of Australia during warm-up week, and getting out of the blocks well against the West Indies tonight at Bay Oval will be crucial.
With runs and wickets being shared across the board, the home side are trending in the right direction to peak at just the right time for this tournament. Fielding is the main concern, but that’s more often than not a mindset thing, so hopefully it will be rectified come tournament time.
Player to watch: There are not many people who are happier to be out in the middle hitting balls than Suzie Bates. After a long lay-off in 2020/21 for shoulder surgery, Bates has a refreshed mindset that ensures she enjoys herself every time she takes the field. Bates has scored centuries all around the world in varying conditions, and after scoring ODI century number 11 in the first ODI against India, she could become the first player to score a century at four World Cups in a row.
Captain: Bismah Mahroof
Pakistan is a team on the way up in women’s cricket, and are getting better and better every year with the more cricket they play. They played 11 ODI matches in 2021 against South Africa and West Indies, before an additional two matches against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe at the ICC World Cup qualifier tournament in Zimbabwe.
It wasn’t all one-way losing traffic, managing to secure a couple of wins along the way, and Pakistan will certainly take a lot of confidence from beating New Zealand and Bangladesh during warm-up week. Led by new mum Bismah Mahroof, who gave birth to her daughter only six months ago, and ably assisted by Javeria Khan, getting a win or two would be a huge boost for women’s cricket in Pakistan.
Player to watch: Fatima Sana, the ICC Women’s Emerging Player of the Year Award recipient for 2021, took 20 wickets in 13 matches, including best bowling figures of 5-39 against West Indies. She’s enjoying her time so far in New Zealand, too, with a fine all-round performance against Bangladesh in warm-up week, scoring 29 while batting at number eight, before turning in 4-47 with the ball.
Captain: Sune Luus
The big blow pre-tournament for South Africa was when captain Dane van Niekerk slipped at home and fractured her ankle, thereby ruling her out of the World Cup. Another one of the best all-rounders in the world, and an extremely tricky prospect with her leg spin bowling, she will be heavily missed in the side.
But coming off the back of an extremely competitive ODI series at home against the West Indies in February, South Africa arrived in New Zealand with a positive mindset, believing they have the squad to make a deep run in this edition of the World Cup. With many players from 2017 featuring again this time around, they are chock-full of experience.
Player to watch: Shabnim Ismail is one of the quickest bowlers in the world. She’s also unmatched for aggression and competitiveness on the field, and will be a great prospect to watch opening up the attack for South Africa with Marizanne Kapp. Her searing pace could cause headaches for batters at any stage of an innings.
Captain: Stafanie Taylor
There’s nothing quite like seeing the flair and fun of the West Indies in full flight. When the women in maroon put it all together, like they did on their march to victory in the 2016 T20 World Cup, they are world-beaters. There were glimpses of it throughout warm-up week, when they pushed Australia hard on a tricky wicket before faltering in the run chase, but they are yet to string it all together consistently.
Batting was also the problem again in their second warm-up match against India, so if their top order can build some decent partnerships, then they won’t be shaping up too bad at all. Excitement levels are high for the team to feature in the tournament opener against New Zealand, particularly in the warmer climates of Mount Maunganui, so they’ll be more than motivated to put on a show.
Player to watch: Tall, strong and with long levers, Hayley Matthews is one of the most powerful ball strikers in the world. Not only can she hit the ball a very long way, but she’s also a very capable off-spin bowler. Her team will certainly be hoping she features heavily in the runs and wickets columns.