Ten teams, including India, will vie for the Women's T20 World Cup in South Africa. As usual, the favourites will be Australia, who have won three of the last four T20 World Cups under the leadership of Meg Lanning. England and West Indies cannot be counted out. India have a good chance too, and they will look for inspiration towards U-19 World Cup winners, Shafali Verma and Richa Ghosh, among others.
West Indies, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Pakistan would not go down without a fight and in the T20 arena, even the likes of Ireland and Bangladesh could pose a threat to the elite teams. Here are five names who could grab the limelight at the tournament.
Harleen Deol (India)
While the squad consists of talents like Smriti Mandhana, Harmanpreet Kaur, Shafali Verma and Deepti Sharma, Deol could be India's 'X-factor'. An agile fielder in the outfield, Harleen's cool and calm character might be a boon for India in scenarios when they have lost wickets in clusters. India have never won the Women's T20 World Cup and players like Deol could play a role in helping them get the trophy.
Annabel Sutherland (Australia)
The Australian team is loaded with standouts, but one name that crops up in discussions is 21-year old Annabel Sutherland. The Melbourne-born was also part of their 2020 T20 World Cup squad and could light up the scene with her medium-pace bowling on pitches that could suit the bowlers. Sutherland can be quite handy with the bat too and that tells the quality of this Australian team.
Suzie Bates (New Zealand)
The 35-year-old veteran enters the T20 World Cup in form. She scored 293 runs in the 2022/23 Women's Super Smash for Otago Sparks at a strike rate of 128.50. The 2023 World Cup could potentially be Bates' last ever and the Kiwi star might want to go out with a bang.
Sophia Dunkley (England)
24-year-old Sophia Dunkley possesses a career WT20I strike rate of 115.03 and could be a menace for opposition bowling when she gets in the groove. Dunkley had a decent outing against the West Indies during the 2022 tour wherein she amassed 154 runs in five WT20Is. With the instrumental Heather Knight leading the troops, Dunkley could prove a weapon for England.
Marizanne Kapp (South Africa)
The hosts will place some trust in the services of Marizanne Kapp after their skipper Dané van Niekerk was not selected on fitness grounds. Kapp scored a blistering fifty against the West Indies in the recently concluded tri-series including India. If used well, she could pose danger to opposition attacks.