Captains weigh in ahead of blockbuster Women’s T20 World Cup opening week
Proteas block outside noise as they channel home support
South Africa skipper Sune Luus insists her side are focused solely on lifting a T20 World Cup trophy in front of home fans in spite of the continued discussion surrounding squad selection.
Given the “tremendous honour” to skipper the team in a global tournament in their backyard, Luus wants her side to channel the support in a bid to reach and win the tournament final.
“I think that's the goal for us.
“We've come close on a couple of occasions, but hopefully this time around, being at home, friends and family supporting, with a whole nation behind us, hopefully we can pull this one through.”
Dane van Niekerk’s absence from the squad has dominated both local and international press, though the side still boast strength in depth, and come off a tri-series win over India and the West Indies in the build-up.
Luus wants that confidence to move into the tournament.
“I think that was just the momentum we needed for this World Cup and to just bring the focus back to cricket and this tournament. It's all about the tournament.
“We're very much focused on the task at hand. I think there's always going to be noise outside of the cricket field.”
Bismah calls for 100% as India look to Under-19 success as inspiration
Newlands sets the stage for another chapter in the India-Pakistan rivalry, and while the fixture perhaps carries more weight for fans of each team, all Bismah Maroof wants is for her side to play to their potential.
Pakistan were perhaps slow out of the blocks in their Australian tour in the build-up, though the skipper feels South Africa may bring happier memories.
“I think (the goal) is just to play to your potential on the day. I think it's a very different venue and a different situation, a different scenario we are in. So we’d like to give our best and let's hope for the best for the result.
“For us, I think the players will take this as a normal match, but of course, the expectations are more on this match.”
Looking to go one better than the 2020 final, Harmanpreet Kaur meanwhile says the side has taken inspiration from Shafali Verma and India’s victorious Under-19 World Cup unit, winning the inaugural tournament also on South African soil.
“We’re really happy that our under-19 team did really well, and we are also looking forward to our campaign.
“The winning momentum has started. We also want to continue with that.”
Trans-Tasman derby kickstarts Australian, New Zealand campaigns
White Ferns captain Sophie Devine says her side will relish a first-up Australia challenge, with a meeting against the defending champions set to prime her group for a strong campaign.
“I think they've probably been the benchmark for a number of years now.
“I think it's great that we take them on first. I think we've said as a group that to be the best, you've got to beat the best, so for us, it's an awesome opportunity.”
Australia, meanwhile, have welcomed back a refreshed Meg Lanning to lead the team in recent weeks, comfortably accounting for Pakistan during home summer action.
Though even for her all-conquering team, there is still unchartered territory. Lanning and her teammates have never played international cricket in South Africa, with Australia’s women last playing on South African soil back in 2005.
With more motivation than ever, anyone hoping Lanning and Australia are taking the tournament for granted will be disappointed.
“T20 World Cups in particular are extremely hard to win. You need a lot to go right and you need to play your best cricket, because there's so many good teams out there who can take it away from you on any day.”
“We are up for the challenge. We know it's going to be difficult, but we're certainly coming here to win.”
New captain Matthews relishing challenge as Knight plots England’s assault
The T20 World Cup in South Africa provides the West Indies captain a tough initiation, facing England first-up after a series of disappointing results. They were only made tougher by a spate of injuries in their build-up.
And while their campaign may hinge on her individual output, the 24-year-old feels the return of Chinelle Henry, Aaliya Alleyne and Stafanie Taylor, as well as the injection of youth from the Under-19 squad means their best is yet to come.
“I think any team you look at, if you experience five or six injuries it's going to be pretty tough for them, and that's pretty much what's happened to us the last couple of months.”
“I think with them coming back in the squad, and the Under-19s from the World Cup that's just finished coming into the squad as well gives us a pretty good balance of youth and experience.”
England by contrast feel ready to go after their extensive preparation in South Africa according to skipper Heather Knight.
“We had 10 days in Pretoria playing against New Zealand, getting used to the conditions and just reconnecting with how we’re going to go about it.”
“Now we're here in Cape Town, it feels really real.”
England’s hopes at the last T20 World Cup were taken out of their hands, as Knight and her teammates watched rain tumble down at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
India advanced in their abandoned semi-final by virtue of finishing top of their group, though Knight feels they can make their own luck two years on.
“Obviously it’s never nice being knocked out in a semi-final or losing a final like that.
“Unfortunately we’ve had a lot of that, but we feel really confident coming into this tournament”
Bangladesh and Sri Lanka circling each other on the calendar
While other fixtures may steal headlines in the first cycle of games at the tournament, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka will fancy their chances against each other in a match of intrigue.
Both sides would almost certainly need victory here if they were to make a tournament run in Group 1, with Bangladesh skipper Nigar Sultana Joty acknowledging victory in the fixture would springboard their campaign.
“We’re looking for a great win against Sri Lanka, and after that we can get momentum through the tournament, and we can play semi-finals.
“We can show ourselves how capable we are and as a team, if we perform the way we can, we can beat any team.”
Sri Lanka face the hosts in the first match of the tournament before they meet Bangladesh, though Chamari Athapaththu feels several trips to South Africa puts her team in good stead.
“The ranking (8th in the world) is just a number. I always say to my team to stay focused on the game.
“If players are playing good cricket, we can beat any team in the world.
“I think this is my sixth time in South Africa. I know these conditions, and not just only me, a few players have played a lot of cricket in South Africa”
Ireland wait in the wings before Paarl outing
The last team to take the field at this T20 World Cup, Ireland will be eager watchers before their opener against England on February 13 in Paarl.
Laura Delany’s side were solid in last year’s Qualifier to nab one of two spots in UAE, only edged by Bangladesh in two close affairs, and went on to win a bilateral away series against Pakistan in November.
With a warm-up win over Australia making headlines worldwide, Delany fancies making waves in South Africa.
"As a group we're growing with each performance and I think we took a lot of confidence from that T20 series win against Pakistan in Pakistan.
"It was in tough conditions ... but everything is heading in the right direction, the girls are putting in really good performances and there's a great vibe and energy around the group at the moment."
On the England challenge, Delany too feels there is potential to surprise.
"We've done a lot of work with video footage, and now that the games are televised as well it gives us an opportunity to see who is in form and who are the key players we need to look out for."
"Overall we just can't wait to get going."