New Delhi: On the eve of her side’s opening match against Bangladesh, Indian women’s cricket team skipper Mithali Raj believes her side are the strong contenders for this year’s World T20 to be played at the home soil.
“With the kind of momentum we have, we should, at least, qualify for the semi-finals. From there, it’s anyone’s game,” Raj said.
Raj further said that the other teams had broken Australia and England’s stranglehold on the women’s cricket.
“Earlier, it used to feel like those two teams were way ahead of the rest, but now the gap is closing,” she said. “After our last two series wins, we too are strong contenders for the ICC World Twenty20.”she added.
India have been drawn alongside Bangladesh, England, Pakistan and West Indies in Group B of the preliminary league in the 10-nation even. The Group A comprises of Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and Sri Lanka, with the top two teams from each group advancing to the semi-finals.
Meanwhile, three-time defending champion Australia will look to put aside recent setbacks as they would aim to win their fourth successive World T20 title.
Australia women have won the last three tournaments in 2010, 2012 and 2014 after England clinched the inaugural event at home in 2009.
But Australia, which won a record 16 T20I in a row between March 2014 and August 2015, is coming off a nightmarish run in recent months that has seen Meg Lanning’s side lose four of its last six matches.
Reflecting on their preparation for the T20 format’s pinnacle event, Lanning admitted it will not be easy for Australia to retain the title and described it as the “tightest ICC Women’s World Twenty20 we have ever had.”
“Everyone starts on an even keel heading into the tournament,” Lanning said. “We’re out to win it just like every team is. Any number of teams can win it, it just comes down to who gets used to the conditions and plays well.
England will once again be captained by veteran batter Charlotte Edwards, who also led the side in the four previous editions, winning the title in 2009 and ending runners-up to Australia in 2012 and 2014.
“I wouldn’t still be playing if I didn’t have that buzz and excitement about playing in a world event,” said the 36-year-old Edwards, now in her 20th year in international cricket.
“It feels incredibly exciting. The game has moved forward massively in the last two years, so I expect this tournament to be as close as it has ever been in women’s cricket.”
England goes into the tournament fresh from a 2-1 series win in South Africa, during which Sarah Taylor became only the second woman after her captain to reach the 2,000-run landmark in T20Is.
India will take on Bangladesh in their tournament opener match in Bengaluru on Tuesday.(ANI)