In a double Ashes year the cricketing spotlight is likely to be fixed firmly on the men. However in recent times the England women’s team have been nothing short of dominant. In 2009 they won the 50-over World Cup for a third time, and followed up their success with victory in the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup at Lord’s. On Friday, England will begin their defence of the World Cup in India against Sri Lanka. Unlike their male counterparts, they go into the tournament as overwhelming favourites.
The England team share a group with India, Sri Lanka, and the West Indies, whose captain has been bullish about her team’s chances in the subcontinent. Merissa Aguilleira is unequivocal in her aims: “We are going to India with one goal – which is to win the World Cup”. However, she also points to potential for any other team to go all the way: “You can’t count out even Pakistan and Sri Lanka, who have been doing well. It’s a good tournament – any one of the eight teams can take it.”
Certainly there are several talented teams and many talented players; however, England will be quietly confident about their chances. In their captain, Charlotte Edwards, they have the most capped One Day International player in history, as well as one of the most prolific run-scorers. Having won pretty much all there is to win in the international arena she is not fazed by the high expectations that many have for her team: “The current England team is used to high expectation being placed on them. Since 2009, this expectation is something we’ve had to deal with, something that has spurred us on, and we relish it.”
Edwards has her sights set firmly on another World Cup title; however the most immediate task is progression out of the group stage. Of the England’s three rivals, India are expected to mount the biggest challenge against the current World Champions. Their captain Mithali Raj is the highest ranked ODI player in the tournament with a batting average of just under 50. Once a partisan home crowd is thrown into the mix, next Sunday’s encounter with the hosts has the making of a tight and high-quality affair.
The profile of women’s cricket has risen exponentially in recent years, with team members starting to get the sort of recognition that their enormous success has deserved. It is hoped by fans and pundits alike that a successful World Cup campaign will continue the purple patch that the game is currently enjoying. And it’s more than likely that the women will be able to teach the men a thing or two about winning one-day internationals in India.