Is this India's time? England will have something to say about that
Group B team-by-team guide on England, India, Pakistan, West Indies and Ireland
In the second part of our team-by-team lookahead to the 2023 Women's T20 World Cup, we focus on Group B, which includes England, India, Pakistan, West Indies and Ireland.
Click here for part one of our team previews.
England have a long-awaited second shot at this after their semi-final was washed out in 2020 and India advanced as group winners to the final. They'll be acutely aware of the need to maintain control of their destiny - a first-up defeat to South Africa ultimately cost them on that occasion. Two easy match-ups, on paper at least, against West Indies and Ireland to begin this edition offer the chance to get on a roll. Captain Heather Knight has returned from the hip injury which kept her out of a disappointing campaign for the Commonwealth Games hosts and exciting young allrounder Alice Capsey has made a timely recovery from a broken collarbone. Gallant runners-up at last year's ODI World Cup, they'll likely need to get past India, whom they edged 2-1 at home in September, if they are to have a chance of going one better.
Heather Knight (capt), Lauren Bell, Maia Bouchier, Alice Capsey, Kate Cross, Freya Davies, Charlie Dean, Sophia Dunkley, Sophie Ecclestone, Sarah Glenn, Amy Jones (wk), Katherine Sciver-Brunt, Nat Sciver-Brunt, Lauren Winfield-Hill, Danni Wyatt
Player to Watch
Nat Sciver-Brunt was England's most influential player throughout 2022, perhaps most memorably with her 148* in the 50-over World Cup final which was one of two defiant centuries she produced against the Australians at the tournament. She has made a seamless return from a three-month mental health break after a season which left her "emotionally fatigued" and recently resumed her vice-captaincy role, suggesting her comeback is complete in ominous signs for the opposition.
Predicted finish: Runners-up
The winds of change are here, having first started blowing in 2017 after their soul-stirring runners-up finish at the 50-over World Cup. Fresh off an inaugural Under-19 Women's T20 World Cup triumph, of which two key members of the current squad - Richa Ghosh and Shafali Verma - were a part, India will look to draw inspiration from that campaign with a team that has several world beaters, and is far different to the nervy group that played the previous final at a heaving MCG. India are coming into the tournament on the back of exhaustive preparation. Having played Australia in an intense five-match series in December, they underwent a skill-based camp prior to their tri-series campaign in South Africa, where they ended runners-up. Gone are the times where India rocked up at a big tournament undercooked. This team means business.
Harmanpreet Kaur (capt), Smriti Mandhana, Shafali Verma, Yastika Bhatia, Richa Ghosh (wk), Jemimah Rodrigues, Harleen Deol, Deepti Sharma, Devika Vaidya, Radha Yadav, Renuka Thakur, Anjali Sarvani, Pooja Vastrakar, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Shikha Pandey
Player to watch
Among the most elegant players in the world, Smriti Mandhana has over time added an X-factor to her batting with a power game comparable to the best. Her destructive presence married with consistency lends an air of superiority to India's top order. Mandhana, among the most marketable female athletes in India already as per estimates, is also a key part of the think-tank, with her cricketing smarts likely to be called upon often during the tournament as vice-captain.
Predicted finish: Bridesmaids no more, expect India to make a serious pitch to enter the grand finale. There's class, experience of heartbreak and lessons they can draw upon. They're acclimatised, having arrived in South Africa three weeks ahead, making them even more dangerous.
Ireland are making their first appearance at the tournament since 2018. They defeated Pakistan 2-1 in a series in Lahore in November but lost twice in qualifying to Bangladesh. The camp has been hit by illness and injury in South Africa, where they've still managed to defeat Bangladesh and push Sri Lanka to the wire in warm-up fixtures. Despite an average squad age of just 24, they have some vastly experienced players and that's not just among the 30-somethings like Mary Waldron, Eimear Richardson and Laura Delany. The gap to the more established nations remains pretty vast, however, and as qualifiers they'll likely be delighted with winning a game or two.
Laura Delany (capt), Rachel Delaney, Georgina Dempsey, Amy Hunter, Shauna Kavanagh, Arlene Kelly, Gaby Lewis, Louise Little, Sophie MacMahon, Jane Maguire, Cara Murray, Leah Paul, Orla Prendergast, Eimear Richardson, Mary Waldron (wk).
Player to watch
Gaby Lewis epitomises Ireland's experienced youth. Still only 21, their vice-captain has represented her country for more than eight years. She was Player of the Series against Pakistan, scoring 144 runs at 72.00 with a strike rate of 130.90. The hard-hitting top-order batter has a career-best of 105 not out from 64 T20Is and is unlikely to be unaffected by big-game nerves after a handful of appearances in the Women's Hundred and the World T20 in 2016 and 2018.
Predicted finish: Group Stage
Cricket's favourite mother-and-baby pair will make a return to the international stage when Bismah Maroof and her daughter Fatima arrive in South Africa with more than just hearts to win. Their major tournament record is poor: they have only won a quarter of the matches they have played at T20 World Cups and never made it out of the group stage, and they come into this edition on the back of some chastening results. Pakistan have only won one of their last five T20I series, but have lost their last two, to Australia and Ireland. They are without seamer Diana Baig but they still have a good mix of talent and experience. Javeria Khan, Nida Dar and Aliya Riaz have almost four decades of international experience combined. Add to that the potential of Fatima Sana and Ayesha Naseem and Pakistan may not be overreaching to hope they have their best World Cup yet. They kick off with a marquee clash against India, which will put them under early pressure, and have other tough opposition to see off after that.
Bismah Maroof (capt), Aiman Anwar, Aliya Riaz, Ayesha Naseem, Sadaf Shamas, Fatima Sana, Javeria Khan, Muneeba Ali (wk), Nashra Sandhu, Nida Dar, Omaima Sohail, Sadia Iqbal, Sidra Amin, Sidra Nawaz (wk), Tuba Hassan
Player to watch
Eighteen-year old Ayesha Naseem is among the biggest hitters around and has a power game that could set the tournament alight. In Pakistan's recent T20 series against Australia, Naseem struck an 83-metre six off Darcie Brown in an innings where she breached the boundary three times. If Pakistan are to get the best out of her, they may want to consider batting her higher than No.7.
Predicted finish: Group stage. Pakistan have never advanced to the knockouts and with India and England in their group, it will be tough to change that.
How the mighty have fallen. Their T20 World Cup win in 2016 should've spurred a revolution for the women's game in the Caribbean. Instead, it has slipped into an abyss with no signs of healing even though from time to time, they've produced players capable of dominating on their day. West Indies haven't come close to winning the title since that heady evening in Kolkata. Adding to their woes is the fact that one of their best players, Deandra Dottin, isn't part of the squad anymore having retired after a tiff with the WICB. Trying to emerge from the Taylor-Dottin era was always going to be challenging enough, but they may have not imagined it to have come this quickly. Stafanie Taylor is still part of the group but has struggled with injury. She will need immense support from Hayley Matthews. Batting has been an Achilles heel for a while, and unless things turn around dramatically, they're unlikely to cause a major shake-up.
Player to watch
Don't go by Shabika Gajnabi's career numbers just yet. Below average as they may be, she's the kind of player who could deliver big returns if she's persisted with and given confidence. Someone who can bat in the middle order and deliver two or three overs of seam-ups, Gajnabi will strive for consistency to try and become a regular in the XI.
Hayley Matthews (captain), Shemaine Campbelle (vice-captain), Aaliyah Alleyne, Shamilia Connell, Afy Fletcher, Shabika Gajnabi, Chinelle Henry, Trishan Holder, Zaida James, Djenaba Joseph, Chedean Nation, Karishma Ramharack, Shakera Selman, Stafanie Taylor and Rashada Williams.
Predicted finish: They're in the easier group but that doesn't necessarily mean a semi-final berth is a done deal. West Indies will do well to remain in contention to take the second spot from the group.
Reporting by Valkerie Baynes, Firdose Moonda and Shashank Kishore