Australia relish pressure of defending title - Fields
Australia are looking forward to the challenge of defending their World Twenty20 title, according to captain Jodie Fields. The women's marquee Twenty20 tournament, featuring eight teams, begins in Sri Lanka on Wednesday with the final on October 7 in Colombo.
"Being the defending champions definitely brings some pressure but also adds to our drive and focus as we want to bring the title home again," Fields said. "We have trained well in the past few days and had a good hit out against West Indies [in the warm-ups], which has set us up well for our first match against India [on Thursday]."
The conditions, Fields said, would probably favour India, so her side would have to be wary. "We know what India are like - always a formidable opponent and one we can never take lightly. India will be used to these [types of] pitches and we are going to have to be on our game from the start if we want to be competitive against them."
The teams are divided into two groups, with Pakistan and England joining Australia and India in Group A, and Sri Lanka, South Africa, New Zealand and West Indies making up Group B. All the group games will be played in Galle, with the semis and final scheduled for the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo as part of a double-header with the equivalent match in the men's event.
Sri Lanka take on South Africa in the opening game and, according to South Africa captain Mignon du Preez, it will be the hosts who are under more pressure in that match. "It's their home ground so they're under a lot more pressure; they have to perform in front of their home audience," du Preez said. "Coming here, we are the underdogs, so we don't have anything to lose and we can go out there and have some fun. The important thing is to concentrate for 240 balls, because there's no time to catch up later on in the Twenty20 format."
The other teams with something to prove in the tournament are New Zealand - twice runners-up - and England, who had failed to make the knockouts in the last edition, despite being the then title-holders.
This time, New Zealand captain Suzie Bates said, the ICC's newly-launched Women's Twenty20 rankings have given her team a confidence boost. "It's nice to compare individual rankings, and it gives us confidence. We don't have too many players in the 50-over rankings, so it looks like T20 is our game.
"The rankings show the team's strength in the shortest format of the game, with three players inside in the top 20 batters and another two listed in the top 20 bowlers." Bates, Sara McGlashan and Amy Satterthwaite are at Nos. 7, 10 and 16 in the batting rankings, while Sian Ruck is at No. 9 and Kate Broadmore at No. 16 from among their bowlers. On the ODI table, there are no New Zealand players among the top 10 batsmen and top 20 bowlers.
England captain Charlotte Edwards said her side's exit from the previous tournament had had quite an impact on them. "I've played cricket for a number of years and, I've had many highs and lows. That [the 2010 tournament] was a huge low, but it is not something I think too much about.
"That was the turning point for us as a team, so I only see it as a positive now. We've moved on and it's good that it hurts."
The tournament's four semi-finalists and the winners of the two play-off games between the bottom four teams will automatically qualify for the next Women's World Twenty20, which will be in Bangladesh in 2014. Bangladesh, as the host country, will also play that tournament, with the eighth and final spot being filled via a qualifying tournament that will be played in 2013.