India favourites in lopsided tournament

It is an anomaly that the qualifying event for a World Cup in England is being played in Sri Lanka, but that, perhaps, will be the last thing on the minds of the 10 teams fighting to be a part of the biggest event in women’s cricket.

In principle, identifying four more contenders to join Australia, England, New Zealand and West Indies for the World Cup in June spells expansion and indicates the drive off the ICC to promote the women’s game. But, there is a serious gulf in the quality of the teams in the Qualifier.

Thailand, for example, will be playing their first 50-over game ever on February 8 – and it will be against India, the tournament favourites. Some recent match practice might have helped even the scales, but Thailand, in the last one year, have only played five T20s. The threat posed by Zimbabwe, Papua New Guinea and Scotland seems similarly underwhelming. Expecting a level-playing field in the competition – where three teams from two groups of five will progress to the Super Six stage – would be far-fetched.

The Qualifier may well become an opportunity for the bigger sides – India, South Africa, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – to get more game time and fine-tune their combinations in preparation for the World Cup. Bangladesh and Ireland, who have been in the fringes of women’s cricket showed sparks of their ability at the World T20 in India last year, would be keen to play the role of a banana skin.

The four teams who progress to England will also be a part of the next ICC Women’s Championship table. Considering most of the top-eight nations play a minimum of five ODIs in a series, with three of them counting towards the championship, the new entrants could potentially stand to play a lot more than the 21 games they were guaranteed over a three-year window from 2018 to 2020. (Courtesy ESPN Cricinfo)

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