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The ghosts of hosts past – can Australia break the curse?

T20 World Cup fixtures

Not since the very first Women's T20 World Cup have the host nation lifted the trophy. As the competition’s dominant force, and now playing at home for the first time, can all-powerful Australia outrun history?

Indeed, no team since England in that first tournament have even made it to the final. Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and India all suffered the ignominy of crashing out at the group stages in their own tournaments, and while West Indies reached the semi-finals both times they played host, they were thrashed on both occasions, by 56 runs against New Zealand in 2010, and by 71 runs against Australia in 2018.

England won and hosted the first-ever T20 World Cup, and remain the only team to have claimed the trophy on home soil
England won and hosted the first-ever T20 World Cup, and remain the only team to have claimed the trophy on home soil

This time around Australia are the hosts, and on the face of it, they appear better placed than those that have come before to break the curse of playing at home. They are the reigning champions, and have won four of the six T20 World Cups, including three in a row between 2010 and 14. They have the world’s most professional set-up, the world’s most celebrated domestic tournament, and a host of supremely talented players. They will surely go into the tournament as favourites, and deservedly so.

However, it will be far from easy for them. Australia’s record at home is actually inferior to their record overseas, with a win/loss record of 1.56 compared to 2.04.

Australia downed hosts West Indies in 2018
Australia downed hosts West Indies in 2018

Their group, which contains India and New Zealand as it did in 2018, is sure to be tricky. Australia and New Zealand are fierce rivals in T20 cricket, each having won 19 times, and while their overall record against India is more favourable, the Asian side are a team on the rise. They qualified for the semi-finals in 2018 for the first time since 2010, this despite off-field disruptions which continued long after the tournament’s conclusion.

Come 2020, their captain Harmanpreet Kaur will have had another year molding her team in her image, while the hyper-talented Smriti Mandhana and Jemimah Rodrigues, who, for all their prowess, are still in the nascent stages of their careers, will have more vital experience to help them in those crunch moments.

Smriti Mandhana inspired India to a famous win over Australia in 2018
Smriti Mandhana inspired India to a famous win over Australia in 2018

Mandhana and Harmanpreet starred as India became the only team to down Australia on their march to the title last year, forcing the eventual champions to settle for second place in the group. That fixture came with both sides having already qualified, but Australia’s game against India in 2020 will be the opening match of the tournament, taking place at the Sydney Showground on 21 February. Should a similar result transpire, the hosts and champions will be up against it from the get-go.

It would heap more pressure on their final group game, against the White Ferns at Melbourne’s Junction Oval on 2 March, where Australia may have to contend not just with an early exit, but doing so in front of their home crowd, and falling prey to a curse which grows in malevolence with every passing tournament.

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