The ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2023 will get underway soon and while most of the preparation has already been done, the challenge will be to ensure the players are ready mentally.

For an event like this, you have to do so much work on the mental side. It is so important to be in a very good mental space. The clearer and more composed you are, the more natural your performances will be and your cricket will start to flow.

Going into the tournament in South Africa, I think everyone would agree that Australia are the favourites, and deservedly so. I am expecting, tight, competitive matches.

They are so difficult to beat because they bat deep and have an excellent batting line-up. There are not many teams who can rival them in terms of big hitters, and the fact they have numerous players who can play a similar role means that if one fails, others can step in.

We saw recently that when they toured India although that was a very competitive series but when it came down to it, more often than not, it was Australia who came out on top.

Having said that, while Australia are definitely favourites, we have seen India and England play some of their best cricket in the knockout stages of tournaments so I would not write them off. India also have the knack of bringing their best against Australia.

India’s chances will be largely dependent on the top order. Smriti Mandhana is playing well and is a match winner. Harmanpreet Kaur has looked in good form too but if we have to beat Australia and England, you need others batters to come to the party.

I hope Shafali Verma and Richa Ghosh also have a good run at the World Cup considering they have gained so much experience of the conditions in South Africa. The bowling will be tested and that is where we need to see an improvement. I am excited about some of the young players coming through and there is definitely some talent in the Under-19s team which I had the chance to see play at the inaugural ICC Under-19s Women’s T20 World Cup.

The conditions in South Africa will make life easier for those batters who can negotiate bounce. If you can deal with the bounce, there are runs to be had square of the wicket, and the cricket can be very pleasing to the eye. The seamers should thrive as well, even if it might be a bit trickier for the wrist-spinners in particular but if you give it a tweak you will get purchase off the wicket.

I was lucky enough to play in the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2005 when India got all the way to the final. I really enjoyed playing on those tracks where you are rewarded for your clean footwork. You can play through the line as well.

It will be a little strange not being out there but I will be analysing the game as if I am still in the middle. I can’t help it but I still watch the game as player, someone who is trying to read the game and think about what to do in a given situation.

What is great at this moment is that the women’s game is constantly evolving. Where 140 used to be a par score in a T20, now you can see 160-180 plus chased down, and so many matches go down to the wire. It is certainly nerve-wracking and fun to watch.

That change has come down to the increase of leagues all over the world, with the WBBL in Australia, the Super League in England and of course the Women’s Premier League in India which is going to start this year. Those platforms not only give local players the chance to interact with overseas stars, but they also offer better financial stability which allows them to invest in their own games, hiring personal coaches or strength and conditioning coaches.

I am not surprised at all that we have got to this point, the Women’s Premier League in India is a huge development. I have been getting questions about when it would launch for years so I hope that we get a successful inaugural year and that see it expand in future.

While I will not be playing, I will be fortunate enough to serve as a mentor and advisor for the Gujarat Giants. There is no disappointment about the fact that I missed out on playing in it, my journey as a cricketer was different and I was able to play my part in the evolution of the sport. I am very happy to see women’s cricket get to where it is and excited to be part of the eco-system.

I am really hoping that the WPL will also help with player development. We have seen at the Under-19 World Cup how much young talent there is around the world and how players are already benefiting from the number of televised matches and the chance to play alongside big names in domestic cricket.

We are also seeing ICC Associate Members competing well and I am really happy that in the WPL, at least one of the overseas players for teams has to come from an Associate Member. The game is growing so fast, and it is great to see it doing so beyond the traditional cricketing nations.

I cannot wait until the start of the World Cup, and I am expecting a really high standard of cricket in South Africa. We should be in for a brilliant tournament.

Content courtesy: ICC Business Corporation FZ LLC 2020 via Online Media Zone.