Agencies

BANGALORE.

Action in the Women’s World Twenty20 starts Tuesday with India Women taking on Bangladesh Women at M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore and New Zealand facing Sri Lanka at Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium in New Delhi.

Bangladesh are among the most energetic and enthusiastic lot on display in the tournament. Their warm-up matches and training sessions have been loud, full of laughter and with the energy of young children. And it’s that enthusiasm that has pushed them to put up such impressive performances in both the practice games.

In its first match against Sri Lanka, despite scoring only 95 runs, they gave the opponent quite a scare by picking up five wickets before Shashikala Siriwardene batted them out of the contest. Against Ireland then, Bangladesh were at their very best, restricting the competition to 73 for 9 before chasing down the target in 7.3 overs.

India, meanwhile, have been clinical. Since their historic series win in Australia earlier this year, Mithali Raj’s team has found a winning combination, and that momentum has brought it into the World T20 as one of the favourites.

India were mostly untested in their practice games against Ireland and Sri Lanka. Smriti Mandhana starred in both with unbeaten scores of 73 and 42 respectively, underscoring her reputation as the lynchpin of the Indian batting since returning to form during the home series against New Zealand Women last July.

India will be the favourite going into the opening match of the championship and if their form of late, where it beat Australia Women (2-1) and Sri Lanka (3-0), is anything to go by, it might be a rather one-sided contest.

But Raj, the Indian captain, stressed that there wouldn’t be any over-confidence. “We haven’t played Bangladesh and Pakistan for two years now, since the last World T20 in Bangladesh, and two years is a long gap in international cricket,” she said. “Having said that, our preparation has been good, so we will work to our strengths.” Bangladesh face a stiff test against an Indian team that seems to have all its bases covered. It played its last international match against Ireland in November, but Jahanara Alam, the Bangladesh captain, said she was confident that her side was well prepared. “Our preparation has been good and we are very confident. As a team we believe nothing is impossible,” she said. “We know India is one of the strongest teams in the competition and we just want to play good cricket, the result will take care of itself.”

New Zealand and Sri Lanka teams come into the tournament with contrasting forms. While Sri Lanka were whitewashed by India in Ranchi a few weeks back, New Zealand have won their last three series. After beating India 2-1 in Bangalore, they completed a clean sweep against Sri Lanka in a three-match affair at home before prevailing over Australia by another 2-1 margin.

With seven wins in nine matches, New Zealand are in prime form. "Yeah, I would like to say that going into tomorrow's clash, we are favourites to win, but I know that T20 is a very fickle game and Sri Lanka in these conditions really play good cricket. We back ourselves to win but we are ready for Sri Lanka to step up," Suzie Bates, the White Ferns skipper said. "Everyone's goal is to win and I truly (believe) with the side we have got, we have got a good chance. If we play as well as we can, we can win the whole thing."

Batting has been one of New Zealand's strengths in T20s in recent times. Of its six scores of 160 plus, three have come within the last two years. Apart from Bates and Sarah McGlashan, Sophie Devine has led the way, recording a 18-ball 50 - the fastest in Women's T20Is - against India in 2015. "You can't look past Sophie Devine in this format. She can hit the ball further than anyone in the game. She is an explosive player and we just love having her on our side," Bates said about her striker. "We have got a very experienced batting line-up which is one of our strengths and our top seven have played a lot of cricket."

With New Zealand oozing in confidence and Sri Lanka also having to play Australia, South Africa and Ireland, Shashikala Siriwardene, Sri Lanka's captain was aware of the challenges that lay ahead.

"We are in a tough group. We have know that from the start. After the New Zealand tour in November, we practiced in Sri Lanka where we beat good teams."

We also played against Under-17 boys and district teams to strengthen our preparation," Siriwardene offered. "We did well against India as well in Ranchi, but didn't perform to our full potential. We had rested our best left-arm spinner and two others, but we'll play our full-strength squad tomorrow."