By STAFF WRITER
The ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2021 supported by Dream 11 gets underway in Harare on Sunday with more at stake than just sealing places in the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022 in New Zealand.
Apart from the three sides who will join the five who have already qualified for the World Cup, two others will also clinch places in the next ICC Women’s Championship (IWC) along with the top five from last time, as the number of teams in the third cycle of the IWC goes up from eight to 10.
If teams like India and South Africa had figured in the 2017 Qualifier in Colombo, the nine-team tournament this time includes former T20 World Champions the West Indies (in Group A along with Sri Lanka, Ireland and the Netherlands) and World Cup regulars Pakistan (in Group B along with Bangladesh, Thailand, Zimbabwe and the United States).
The final placings will be decided in a Super Six stage comprising three teams each advancing from the two groups. The teams making it to this round will carry over points gained in the preliminary league against other teams that advance to the Super Six stage.
West Indies captain Stafanie Taylor looked forward to the tournament while exuding confidence on the back of an impressive 3-0 series victory over Pakistan this month.
West Indies captain Stafanie Taylor: “We’re definitely looking forward to kickstarting the Qualifiers. The expectations are pretty high for us to finish number one or at least in the top three and be one of the eight teams in New Zealand next year. With that being said, we’re not taking any team for granted. We’re going to go out there and play our best cricket.
“I believe the all-round ability of our team is our strength, our batting is peaking at a good time heading into the Qualifiers, which was exemplified with two centuries in the recent series against Pakistan. Our bowlers are showing that they can defend the scores posted by the batters. So, we are looking forward to a competitive but enjoyable tournament.”
Zimbabwe captain Mary-Anne Musonda, on the other hand, spoke for teams eyeing places in the IWC, which ensures exposure against top sides over the next three-year cycle.
Zimbabwe captain Mary-Anne Musonda: “These qualifiers are very important for us. We have got a shot at qualifying for the World Cup, which is a very big platform and something that we want, and the opportunity of finishing in the top five, which will mean we will have tours as part of the ICC Women’s Championship. That would be good for our team – getting to play top sides.
“Hosting (this event) is such a great thing for us – home conditions and fans cheering for us! We have a fair chance of making it to the top five and fighting through to get to the top three. We are hoping to start by winning our two games in Group B, aiming to take it one game at a time and hope for the best in the end. We have a good mix of youth and experience in our side.”
Zimbabwe play Thailand on the opening day at Harare Sports Club while Bangladesh and Pakistan play at the Old Hararians Club simultaneously.
All matches start at 09h30 local time and will be live-streamed on ICC.tv. Ball-by-ball scoring will be available on icc-cricket.com.