A look ahead to the teams and format of the ICC Women's World Cup Qualifier 2021 in Zimbabwe, which will have a big impact on the state of the women's game over the next few years.
In October, Mary-Anne Musonda not only led Zimbabwe in their first ever ODI, but also became the first woman from the country to make a century in the format. This month, she will lead her team as they play hosts for the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier.
It has been an exciting few months for Zimbabwe women’s cricket, and the team are keen to showcase their ambitions on the biggest stages of the global game. This, especially since they missed out on the chance to qualify for the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2020. In 2019, the players had one of their biggest setbacks when the national teams were suspended by the ICC following political interference in cricket administration. Now, back in the fold, they are eager to make up for lost opportunities and chase their dreams.
They will be joined by eight other teams in the Qualifier that shapes what the top tier of global women’s cricket looks like over the next few years.
What’s at stake
This Women’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier carries a significance beyond an appearance in a single tournament. There are no knock-outs in the tournament, so apart from the bragging rights that come from finishing with most points, there are two main ‘carrots’ for the teams.
First, three teams will join hosts New Zealand, along with Australia, England, South Africa and India at the eight-team ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup in February-March 2022.
Second, five best teams from the qualifier will join Australia, England, South Africa, India and New Zealand in a 10-team ICC Women’s Championship for the next three-year cycle. The Women’s Championship, which has completed two cycles so far, requires every team to play the other in three ODIs. This ensures that the women’s teams around the world have a fixed schedule. Developing teams are assured of matches against top sides.
Since its introduction in 2014, the Women’s Championship has been credited by several top cricketers for contributing towards an improvement in the standards of the international game as well as the growth of women’s cricket in these countries.
Nine teams are set to feature in the tournament. Unfortunately, Papua New Guinea, who were to take part, were forced to pull out following a COVID outbreak in the camp.
The teams taking part have been divided into two groups as follows:
Group A: West Indies, Sri Lanka, Ireland, Netherlands
Group B: Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Zimbabwe, USA
Pakistan, West Indies and Sri Lanka are in the qualifier after finishing outside the top four in the ICC Women’s Championship 2017-20; they were fifth, seventh and eighth. (New Zealand, even though they finished sixth, qualified automatically for the World Cup as they are the hosts.)
Bangladesh and Ireland are in the qualifier by virtue of their ODI status. Netherlands (Europe), USA (Americas), Zimbabwe (Africa) and Thailand (Asia) won their place in the tournament during the regional qualifying tournaments.
What to expect
Pakistan go into the tournament as one of the favourites. They narrowly missed out on finishing inside the top four on the Women’s Championship, after they had to share points with India. Although their regular skipper Bismah Maroof is on maternity leave, under Javeria Khan they have a squad that is a good mix of youth and experience. They have also had a relatively busy year, getting in plenty of domestic and international games.
West Indies, the former T20 World Cup champions of 2016, have seen their one-day game drop off a bit over the past few years. Yet, they are the top seeds in the tournament and remain a force to be reckoned with. They are in fine form with many of their stars in good touch.
Bangladesh have dominated qualifying tournaments in recent times, and have been World Cup regulars over the past few events. Their opening-day game against Pakistan will be one of the big clashes of the group stage.
Like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, who have also been World Cup regulars, come into the tournament low on game time, but are still expected to be a handful on the Zimbabwe tracks.
Thailand are in a good position to challenge the World Cup regulars. They made a splash at the T20 World Cup 2020 in Australia, even coming close to a win against Pakistan before rain intervened.
Ireland will be hurting from missing out on the 2020 tournament. They come into the qualifier well prepared, having played ODIs in Zimbabwe last month.
Zimbabwe will be without senior batter Chipo Mugeri-Tiripano but have the advantage of being hosts and have enjoyed some game time in recent months as well.
Netherlands, who welcome back the prolific Sterre Kalis following strong performances in England's domestic structure, will be looking to shake up the tournament, while a young USA side are reaping the rewards of new investment and a development structure. Both of them will be tested against quality opposition.
The final three spots for the Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022 are up for grabs!— Cricket World Cup (@cricketworldcup) November 2, 2021
All the details of the 10-team Qualifier beginning on 21 November in Zimbabwe 👇 https://t.co/bFV7MlLjCq
The event begins with a set of warm-up matches on 19 November, before the group stage from 21 November.
In this preliminary group stage, each team plays with the others in their group.
The top three from each group progress to the Super Six stage, where they play each of the top three teams from the opposite pool from the group stage. They will carry forward points they gained in the group stage against the other Super Six teams.
The top three teams after the Super Six stage will make it to the Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022.
The top five will seal their place in the next round of the ICC Women’s Championship. Sunday 5 December will mark the last day of matches.
A Super Over will be played in case of a tie. Subsequent Super Overs shall be played until a winner is determined, except under exceptional circumstances.
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