Road to women’s World Cup begins in Colombo today

A tournament in which the likes of Thailand and Papua New Guinea rub shoulders against higher-ranked teams such as India and South Africa reflects the International Cricket Council’s efforts to spread the game worldwide.

These four nations will be among 10 teams — joining Pakistan, Bangladesh, Ireland, Scotland, Zimbabwe and hosts Sri Lanka — in the ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier in Colombo. Starting Tuesday, they will begin their campaign for spots at the 2017 ICC Women’s World Cup, the pinnacle of the sport, in England in June-July.

One among them will lift the trophy on Feb 21, but four will leave with prize berths for the eight-team ICC Women’s World Cup and the ICC Women’s Championship while two more who will join them in the Super Six stage are assured of at least ODI status for the next cycle. Others have a chance to boost the profile of women’s cricket back home. Every team has something to aim for.

Here are what some of the captains say on eve of the qualifying event:

Pakistan’s Sana Mir: “The last time [Pakistan played the tournament] we qualified for the final, but weren’t able to finish the final well. That will be our target in this qualifier.”

India’s Mithali Raj: “We’ve got a few injuries in the side. This also gives an opportunity for the young talent in our side, who’ve just come in for the qualifiers, to see how they progress. We definitely are looking forward for the matches.”

South Africa’s Dane van Niekerk: “It’s really hot!” We are looking forward to the challenge. It will be really good cricket. May the best team win.”

Ireland’s Laura Delany: “The humidity is something we’re not familiar with. The wickets are slightly slower than we’re used to. It’s just up to us to adjust as soon as we can.”

All teams will want to get off to a winning start. South Africa, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and Thailand,(who, along with Scotland, will be the only two to start the action on Wednesday, won their warm-ups on Sunday and will be riding on that confidence.

Tuesday’s fixtures (all matches start at 9:30am PST):

Sri Lanka vs India (P. Sara Stadium), Ireland vs Zimbabwe (Mercantile Cricket Association Ground), South Africa vs Pakistan (NCC Ground), Bangladesh vs Papua New Guinea (CCC Ground).

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