A test of sustainability for the women's game
The women once again join the men at the World Twenty20 after encouraging signs and a cricket-filled 2009. Like last year, the semis and finals for men and women will be played on the same day at the same venues. While it's not likely that there will be full houses for the curtain-raisers (the women's matches played ahead of the men's), the international women's teams will have the chance to wow a new audience.
Only England and Sri Lanka have toured the West Indies before and both have played there within the last 12 months. But in Twenty20, familiarity with the conditions hardly gives an edge over the opponents. However defending champions England remain favourites because of their strong batting line-up.
On the whole, the tournament will be another test of the sustainability of the women's game. After last year's World Cups, England, the defending champions in ODIs and Twenty20, travelled extensively and they remain favourites. After beating Australia 4-0 in ODIs at home in June-July, England went to West Indies in November and lost both the one-day and Twenty20 series 2-1. Then earlier this year, they visited India where they won the ODIs and the Twenty20 series. Australia and New Zealand played the Rose Bowl Series in February 2010 - New Zealand won the two Twenty20s and Australia won the three ODIs. Pakistan and South Africa have not played any internationals since the World Twenty20 last year.
AustraliaTheir experienced captain Karen Rolton retired in January this year and the squad is further weakened by the absence of wicketkeeper Jodie Fields. Captain Alex Blackwell is leading a fairly young and inexperienced side, barring the 33-year-old batting mainstay Shelley Nitschke.
EnglandNo such worries for England who welcome back their openers Claire and Sarah Taylor, and spinner Holly Colvin who missed the India tour. They have also won their two warm-ups - against India and Sri Lanka - with ease and look virtually unstoppable.
Watch out for: Claire Taylor, with whose return England look indomitable. She is expected to top the run-scoring charts with ease.
IndiaThough their previous two campaigns - in Australia and England - were disappointing, India looked a better side during their home series against England. Their main batsman Mithali Raj is in form and they have a few hitters down the order. But they'll have to play out of their skins to overcome New Zealand and England.
Watch out for: Left-arm spinner Gouher Sultana who took 18 wickets (12 in 15 ODIs and six in three Twenty20s) against England in February-March. She flights the ball well, gets good turn and can slip in a few quicker ones to trouble batsmen on the slow West Indies wickets.
New ZealandTwo World Cup finals in three months and two defeats will be stinging New Zealand badly. It's more a question of settling the nerves than of developing strategies for this talented side.
Watch out for: Lucy Doolan bowls offspin and is a useful batsman in a sticky situation. In a line-up of big hitters, Doolan sneaks in the quick singles and twos.
PakistanWith no proper matches since June last year, it is hard to say how Pakistan will do in the tournament. They surprised everybody with a sixth place finish in the 50-over World Cup last year and have already beaten West Indies in a warm-up game in St Kitts. Pakistan will be aiming for fifth place this time.
Watch out for: Urooj Mumtaz who took 2 for 14 in the warm-up match against West Indies, can choke the runs with her legbreaks.
South AfricaUnlike Pakistan, South Africa have shown few signs that they will grow out of their minnow status any time soon. Their best hope is to avoid a last-place finish.
Watch out for: Cri-zelda Brits has propped up South Africa's batting line-up for more than two years now. Trisha Chetty's unbeaten 65 off 54 balls against India in the warm-up was another encouraging sign for the side.
Sri LankaThey lost to West Indies in the bilateral series preceding this tournament but can challenge them in Twenty20s. The battle for fifth place will be between West Indies, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
Watch out for: Opening batsman Dedunu Silva can score quickly and give her side a solid platform to build on.
West IndiesLike Pakistan, West Indies have surprised their opponents from time to time and have some aggressive batsmen in their line-up. Even if home advantage means little, they'll have the home support and will be eager to make it to the semis. But since they are grouped with Australia and England, it looks unlikely.
Watch out for: Stafanie Taylor, an explosive top-order batsman who top-scored in the three-match Twenty20 series against Sri Lanka last month. She scored a half-century in each game and piled up 162 runs, 101 more than the next highest run-getter.
Nishi Narayanan is a staff writer at Cricinfo