Play Like a Girl: The Top Stars at the Women’s T20 World Cup in Australia


Play Like a Girl: The Top Stars at the Women’s T20 World Cup in Australia

Illustration: Aishwarya Nayak

Many cricket fans I know are counting down to the ICC Men’s World T20, scheduled to be held in Australia in October this year. But they can chuck that out the window now, since the Women’s T20 World Cup is already upon us, slated to begin on Friday on the very same hallowed pitches of Sir Don.

After the first instalment of the tournament was played in England, the event has seen five more editions. Just like Australia have been ruling the roost in men’s cricket, the Aussies have won all but two editions of the Women’s T20 World Cup. The defending champions enter the competition as favourites yet again.

There’s a real buzz around the showpiece event this time around. In fact, the organisers are hopeful that the final of the World Cup, scheduled on International Women’s Day (March 8) at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, will break the record for the highest turnout at a women’s sporting match — currently held by the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, which hosted 90,185 people for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final between USA and China in 1999.

At its core, the success of any event is brought about by its participants — the players in this case. So let’s get to know the top five players from across the 10 participating nations to look out for in the tournament.

Smriti Mandhana

Our very own Maharashtrian mulgi, Smriti Mandhana’s name is taken in the same breath as the top-drawer players in world cricket. Mandhana, who joined a cricket academy at the age of five, was among the top five run-scorers in T20I cricket last year.

The left-hander reminds many, not least India women’s cricket team coach WV Raman, of Sourav Ganguly. Her majestic shots through the offside are enthralling and effective in equal measure. Mandhana even goes one better than Dada, who holds an unwanted record of getting dismissed for 16 ducks in ODIs, by never having opened her account in this respect. (Touch wood!) The opener has been the top-scorer for India in T20Is since the 2018 World Cup. She topped the batting charts yet again in the recently-concluded Women’s T20I tri-series in Australia, where she plundered 216 runs from just five innings at an impressive strike-rate of over 135.

Ellyse Perry

Move over AB De Villiers, international cricket has a new polymath. Ellyse Perry holds the honour of being the first Australian to have appeared in both cricket and soccer World Cups. Perry became the youngest Australian in international cricket when she made her debut in July 2007 at the age of 16. Only a month had passed when she was picked in the Australian women’s football team for the 2008 Olympic qualifiers. If that was not enough, the all-rounder – in the truest sense of the word – scored a goal within two minutes of her appearance in her debut against Hong Kong.

Perry, who averages a ridiculous 78 in Test cricket and went nearly four years without getting dismissed in Tests, is one of many threats that the hosts possess. The fact that she can hurt the opposition in all the three departments helps her stand out. The Aussie is an advertising darling as well, as the face of campaigns for brands like Adidas and Red Bull in the past.

Sophie Devine

While Perry is the undisputed No 1 all-rounder in Tests and the 50-over format, Sophie Devine edges her in this respect on current form. Equal on points with Perry in the T20I All-Rounder rankings, the Kiwi is coming fresh off a spectacular Women’s Big Bash League season for Adelaide Strikers. Devine dominated the run charts in the league, blasting 769 runs at an average of 77, with a strike-rate of 130.

Since then, she has continued her splendid run of form, adding three half-centuries, an unbeaten century and four wickets in just four T20 internationals. The White Ferns skipper also holds the record for scoring the fastest-ever half-century in women’s T20 International history off just 18 balls. Like Perry, Sophie has also mastered two sports — hockey and cricket; theirs will be a competition to watch.

Danielle Wyatt

The average Indian cricket fan will know Danielle Wyatt, thanks to her audacious tweet in 2014 that read, “Kholi marry me!!!” Never mind the typo, but it sure made a splash with media houses churning out heaps of spicy stories.

That might not quite have panned out as predicted, but seven years later, it’s a good idea to educate ourselves about her. Wyatt opens the batting for England and was the team’s top-scorer in T20Is in 2019. She smoked 422 runs from just 13 innings at an average of over 35 and a strike-rate of almost 130 last year. “Waggy”, as she is popularly known, forms a formidable opening pair with wicketkeeper Amy Jones.

Chanida Sutthiruang

The Thailand cricket team is the real story of the Women’s T20 World Cup. The fact that the country had little to do with the sport at the beginning of the century, and are brushing shoulders with the top teams of the world in a premiere tournament just two decades later is truly mind-boggling. While their captain Sornnarin Tippoch having converted from a softball player to take charge of the team is a story in itself, 26-year-old Chanida Sutthiruang is our focus.

Sutthiruang, the 2019 ICC Women’s Emerging Cricketer of the Year, has played every single one of Thailand’s T20Is down the years. A product of cricketing academies in Thailand, Sutthiruang made her senior debut in 2012 and has been her country’s top bowler for the last seven years. The right-arm seamer took 12 wickets at the T20 World Cup qualifier last year.

Keep an eye on Sutthiruang and on the four names above hers as the extravaganza begins on February 21. May the best women win!