Photo Credit: ICC
England captain Heather Knight does not feel the pressure of heading into the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022 as defending champions.
Knight was speaking on the second day of the captains’ opening media conferences, with the skippers of New Zealand, India and Bangladesh also interacting with the media on Saturday.
The 2017 winners will take on Australia in their opening match on March 5 in Hamilton and Knight believes it is Australia who head in as the team to beat.
“I think five years is quite a long time in international cricket and obviously Australia have been the outstanding team throughout that period and naturally, deservedly they go in as favourites,” she said.
“I don’t think it [being defending champions] hangs heavy at all on our shoulders. I think the tournament we had in 2017 will give a lot of the players confidence that they can deal with the ebbs and flows of the tournament and know how to be successful in World Cups.
“We’ll be trying to take experience from that and we’re not too worried about having the tag of obviously being reigning champions.”
England will still be hoping to keep a hold of the trophy come the final in Christchurch on 3 April and have been working to be at their best for this tournament.
Knight added: “Naturally the team evolves in World Cup cycles. I think the last couple of years with Lisa [Keightley, head coach] coming in, the changes we’ve made as a bowling unit. We’ve really tried to be a little bit more aggressive, a little bit more attacking, look to take wickets particularly up front and through that middle phase.
“You’re just trying to get your players together that are going to be successful during those five years preparing for a World Cup…In the last couple of years before a World Cup, you are trying to really build to peak at that time.”
New Zealand skipper Sophie Devine is under a different sort of pressure as she leads her team at a home World Cup, including the opening match against the West Indies on 4 March.
Devine and her WHITE FERNS teammates are inspired by the New Zealand teams of the past as they go in search of silverware.
She said: “We know if we play a really exciting brand of cricket that we can get the whole country behind. That’s going to leave a legacy.
“I think it’s something that the BLACKCAPS did particularly well in 2015. They really did have the whole country behind them and we’re hoping we can do something similar in igniting the passion that so many Kiwis have for their sport and hopefully they can get behind us as well.”
The last time New Zealand hosted a Women’s World Cup they came away champions, and Devine has fond memories of the 2000 triumph.
“That was probably one of the first times I’d watched women’s cricket on TV and it’s not a bad one to watch,” Devine said. “There’s a number of us players that were inspired by those players who played in that tournament and it’s pretty incredible to think now here we are, some 20 odd years later, hosting our own World Cup tournament with the opportunity to hopefully replicate what they did back in 2000.”
As India captain Mithali Raj prepares for a record sixth appearance at an ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup, she is looking to the future.
Mithali Raj said: “The talent that we’ve got in the last year, we’ve tried some young talent in the squad, and most of them have shown that they have the ability to play at this level like Richa [Ghosh], Shafali [Verma], we have Meghna Singh in the seamers, Pooja Vastrakar.
“They all have been given good game time and those series have really helped them and me as a captain to find out where they fit in into the composition of the team.
“As far as me personally, I am happy with the way that I’ve been scoring runs, and I would love to continue the form into the World Cup.”
With her vast experience at World Cups, the India captain has also been passing on her wisdom to those set to make their debut.
“The young talent in the side today, I tell them that you don’t have the experience of the past World Cups, so it’s a clean slate for you, all you have to do is enjoy the big stage.,” she explained. “I did have a word with Yastika [Bhatia] the other day, I took her out for a coffee and we’ve spoken quite a bit, she’s a chatty kid and asked me a lot of questions.
“The only advice I would tell the young players is enjoy the big stage because if you pile up the pressure you may not be playing the best that the team and you would want to do in the World Cup.”
The whole of the Bangladesh side will make their debuts at a one-day World Cup as 2022 marks the country’s first appearance.
For captain Nigar Sultana and her team, it is a chance to put their practice to good use.
She said: “I think this is a big opportunity for all of us. We’ve been working so hard for this and this is our first ever World Cup. I think if we could do well here, it will be a great moment in Bangladesh cricket. We came a bit early just because we wanted to assess the wickets and the conditions because we have never played here in New Zealand conditions.
“So, we have had a lot of quality practice sessions here, we are trying to assess the wicket and in the conditions, I think our girls have done very well.”
Sultana has also been able to call on the knowledge of the Bangladesh men’s side, which played in New Zealand earlier this year.
She revealed: “We do have some good relations with some of the players so they shared a lot of experience about the condition and how we’re going to the play here. I think it is going to help us in the practice matches and the main matches as well.”