Thursday, September 29, 2022

ICC: Qualifiers have a charm of their own – Mignon du Preez

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If you think that a qualifying event like the upcoming ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier 2022 can’t provide fans with thrills or that the results don’t matter much, well, you could not be further from reality.

Just go back a few years to the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier played in Colombo and you get an understanding of what it can be like. The performances were a feast for the eyes and the results showed how performances in qualifying events can boost teams as they make it to the main tournament.

India beat South Africa in a last-ball thriller in the final, with Harmanpreet Kaur hitting an outstanding, run-a-ball 41. That win lifted India’s morale several notches and they ended up playing the final of the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2017 at a packed Lord’s stadium, in what is widely acknowledged as a watershed moment for our sport.

The qualifying tournament helped us too and we also made the semi-finals of the World Cup. Though the Qualifier final in Colombo was one that I badly wanted to win (I got some runs too) I realize now that there were several positives for us to take out and they helped us develop as a team.

This tournament though will be a lot different for me. I am honoured to be named the Event Ambassador by the ICC and will be doing my bit to promote the event, including as a commentator, and am really looking forward to my new role. 

It’s an awesome time to be associated with the game in this role. Everyone is talking about the growth of women’s cricket and its bright future, the recent ICC mega events are a reflection of how the game has transcended. A packed MCG for the Women’s T20 World Cup Final in 2020 and the lively debut at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games are bright spots while the Women’s World Cup in New Zealand this year showed the advance in quality with several close games.

The teams in this Qualifier Event include three ICC Full Members – Bangladesh, Ireland and Zimbabwe – but it is also a great opportunity for others to show their mettle, not least the Thailand team that has been talked about on the circuit for some time now. The T20 format provides teams with great opportunities and those two qualifying spots will not be easy to grab.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has hosted several top-level tournaments, including the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup last year, and I am sure the players will enjoy every moment at the iconic Zayed Cricket Stadium and the adjacent Tolerance Oval.

It’s good to know that the matches are being live-streamed. The ICC has done a great job in taking the women’s game to people’s homes and this is a great way to add fans and reach new frontiers. Our game’s ambition is to be part of the Olympics and both women’s cricket and the T20I format will have a role in that.

Come 23 September and we will know the two qualifiers for the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2023 to be played in my beautiful country, but I am sure the final two days later will still be looked forward to by both players and fans alike.

Going by past experience, I am expecting some thrills and maybe even some spills, but definitely not your everyday tournament!

(Mignon du Preez captained South Africa in 46 ODIs and 50 T20Is, including in the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2014, in which the team made the semi-finals).

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