The Women's World Cup Qualifier in Colombo has showcased the talents of some young players who could be integral to their sides' chances for years to come.
ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier 2017 – The future stars
Wolvaardt, Sandhu, Joshi, Hansika and Gordon have made a mark for themselves with consistent, mature performances
Ten teams fighting it out for four ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 places – the qualifying tournament in Sri Lanka from February 7 showcased some of the best upcoming talent in women’s cricket around the world. Here are some of the names that stood out.
Laura Wolvaardt (South Africa)
Laura Wolvaardt, South Africa’s 17-year-old opener, became South Africa’s youngest centurion when she struck a match-winning 105 against Ireland Women last year. In her first few months playing in the subcontinent, she’s tried to build on those early gains.
She is the third-highest run-getter of the tournament, with an aggregate of 231 runs in eight matches.
While her opening partner Lizelle Lee is all about the power and the big shots, Wolvaardt acts as the perfect foil to her with her textbook drives and calm approach to the game. She has taken her time to get her runs, but has got the job done. Consistency has been her strength: she’s made 30 or more in five of South Africa’s eight games in the tournament.
Her efforts earned her praise from Dane van Niekerk, her captain. “It was Wolvaardt’s first tour in the subcontinent and she realised just how tough it is. She knows what she has to go work on her own – it’s not like at home, where you stand and just hit the ball.”
Kirstie Gordon (Scotland)
Twice in this tournament Kirstie Gordon, Scotland’s left-arm spinner, could have got a hat-trick. She missed out on that feat, but finished the tournament with eight wickets from four matches, including 4 for 29 against Pakistan.
Incidentally, Gordon has another Pakistan connection. Having met Azhar Ali, the former Pakistan ODI captain, during his time with Scotland club Huntly, the 19-year-old has kept in touch with the batsman.
Gordon enjoyed her time bowling on Sri Lankan wickets, having scalped four in the warm-up game as well. “In this tournament, I learnt how to vary my pace a bit. I’ve been helped a lot by my captain (Abbi Aitken) and Kari (Anderson) with setting fields and knowing where you want the batters to hit you, and just about building pressure leading to wickets,” she said.
“I’ve seen some of the best bowlers in the world in this tournament. Dane, bowling for South Africa, just bowled with such great control. And a lot of them have shown that if you can put the ball in the right areas six balls out of six, the rewards will come from it, just from building the pressure.”
Nashra Sandhu (Pakistan)
After the Super Sixes round, Nashra Sandhu sat on top of the wicket-takers’ chart, with 17 scalps in seven matches. That included figures of 5 for 11 for the 19-year-old left-arm spinner against PNG.
And this after making her international debut in this tournament.
With Anam Amin, Pakistan’s senior left-arm spinner, missing this tournament owing to injury, Sandhu had a lot on her shoulders and she stepped up to the challenge, much to the delight of her coach, Kabir Khan, and captain, Sana Mir.
“She has shown a lot of nerve,” said Mir. “She has been bowling in the middle overs, in the batting Power Play and she’s showed variations. She can spin the ball, she can bowl fast and in the field as well she’s giving her 100%. I’m really happy with the way she’s developing.”
Mansi Joshi (India)
Mansi Joshi is among those players who made their international debut during this tournament, and immediately staked their claim for a regular spot in the side. Like Sandhu, she was expected to take on the burden that fell on her shoulders when an experienced senior, Jhulan Goswami in Joshi's case, missed out due to injury.
Joshi grabbed her opportunity and had seven wickets from five matches ahead of the final. The young pacer was player of the match in India’s nine-wicket win over Thailand, with remarkable figures of 5-4-4-3. She followed that up with 3 for 25 in another nine-wicket win over Bangladesh. She was impressive with her raw pace, line and length, and the amount of bounce she derived from the surface.
“Jhulan di taught me about seam position and she also made me realise the importance of the non-bowling arm to complete the follow through,” said Joshi.
Nipuni Hansika (Sri Lanka)
A young girl who is one of the batting highlights for the side, is how Inoka Ranaweera, the Sri Lankan captain, described her top-order batter.
Hansika, a left-hander, finished just two runs short of 200 runs in the tournament, and just two runs short of what would have been a well-earned 50. She failed in the first match against India, but after that consistently got starts and made more than 25 in all games but one.
She’s not a big hitter of the ball, but is clever about rotating the strike and can find the gaps, as her 23 boundaries this tournament show.
At 22, she’s not a newbie in the circuit, having played 20 ODIs and 14 T20Is since her debut in February 2013. But her performances these last couple of weeks have shown the promise she holds for Sri Lanka.