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Cricket news - Women's T20 WC - Gamechangers

Shafali Verma has established herself as the bellwether of changing times in Indian cricket.

Shafali Verma has established herself as the bellwether of changing times in Indian cricket.

Shafali Verma (India)

India's search for a second attacking opener was in shreds when Shafali Verma came along. Only 15 when she made her T20I debut for India, becoming the youngest to do so, Verma only took another two months to become the youngest Indian cricketer with an international half-century, beating none other than Sachin Tendulkar's 30-year-old record. Now, almost a year after impressing in the 2019 Women's T20 Challenge, Verma has established herself as the bellwether of changing times in Indian cricket. She's the face of India's T20 WC campaign on television and brings to the side her own kind of aggression at the top of the order, allowing India the luxury of quick starts from both ends in times of ever increasing run-rates. With 158 runs across five matches, Shafali was recently named the Player of the Tournament in India's 5-0 whitewash of West Indies in T20Is. She impressed with her clarity of thought, shot selection and, most importantly, intent. But all of what's been on show from this prodigy isn't a surprise to those who've known her journey. For someone who's brave enough as a child to crossdress as a boy and train because the cricket academies in Haryana won't admit a girl, hitting a fast bower straight over her head must not be such a difficult proposition.

Alyssa Healy (Australia)

Player of the Tournament in the last edition, Healy went on to have an excellent 2019 and was named the ICC's T20I Cricketer of the Year for the second successive year. She smashed the highest individual score in women's T20Is with an unbeaten 148 against Sri Lanka in October, while providing blistering starts against the West Indies before that. The extent of her role in Australia's dominance could well be gauged by how the defending champions appeared slightly brittle when the wicketkeeper-dasher failed to fire in the recent tri-series against England and India. Australia lost two matches in that series, which is more than what they lost in the whole of 2019. Sure, Australia might have more consistent batters in the form of Beth Mooney and Meg Lanning, who were among the top-five run-getters in last season's WBBL. But, with the T20 WC on the horizon and for the sheer impact she carries, Healy's form, more than anyone else's, will be a big factor in shaping Australia's fortunes.

Danielle Wyatt (England)

With close to 500 runs since the last T20 WC, at a strike rate of 123.48, and four half-centuries to boot, Wyatt has been England's best batter in the last couple of years. England will be banking on solid starts from the 28-year-old right-hander, who has been in good form over the last few months. Having scored 466 runs - including a hundred and four fifties - at an average of 42.36 and a strike rate of 166.42 in the Women's Super League, she followed it up with nearly 500 runs in WBBL 2019. That she has a couple of centuries to her name in T20I cricket, including one in Canberra where England play a couple of games, augurs well for the runners-up of the 2018 edition.

Sophie Devine (New Zealand)

It's no secret that Devine will shape how their campaign goes.

Not convinced? Just take a look at her last five T20I scores - 72, 54 not out, 61, 77 and 105 - as she became the first woman player to stroke five consecutive 50-plus scores. It's no secret that New Zealand's newest captain will shape how their campaign goes. Her power-hitting ability and the habit of delivering crucial wickets make her the biggest threat for the opponents.

Chamari Athapaththu (Sri Lanka)

The Sri Lankan skipper does know a thing or two about scoring centuries for as recent as Sri Lanka's tour of Australia, Athapaththu registered three-figure scores in an ODI as well as a T20I. But lack of support from the other end meant that her knocks came in losing causes. The leading run-getter for her team since the last T20 WC, Athapaththu has scored 271 runs in nine games at an average of 30.11 while she has had a useful stint with Loughborough Lightning in the KSL, and also filled in as a replacement player for a couple of games for her previous WBBL franchise Melbourne Renegades. The responsibility seems to have brought the best out of her as, not surprisingly, Athapaththu has also been the highest wicket-taker for Sri Lanka in that period. Her all-round skills will be crucial to the team's fortunes.

Hayley Matthews (West Indies)

After the 2016 final heroics where she led West Indies to glory at the age of 18, Matthews has struggled with consistency in her game at the top of the order. But time and again she has served up reminders of her potential, like the unbeaten hundred against Ireland last year. Matthews is a pretty good off-spinner as well, with a career economy of less than six and bowled well against India recently even though her batting was a let-down.

Matthews endured a particularly difficult 2019, a year that was scuppered by the disciplinary ban that saw her miss the tour against Australia. Going into the T20 WC, she'd be keen to get her career back on track on the stage where she made her name to begin with.

Chloe Tryon (South Africa)

Her six-hitting prowess are well documented, but the all-rounder could well emerge as South Africa's MVP for she's hit the right notes just ahead. Tryon's late blitz - 34 not out off 16 - provided South Africa their only victory in the five-match T20I series they lost in New Zealand in the lead-up to the World Cup. She then hammered an unbeaten 23 off just nine balls against Sri Lanka in the warm-up clash to help her side finish on a solid note. Her economy of 7.11 in 61 games is exceptional and the side will hope she is able to give the bowlers the cushion of extra runs with her late hard-hitting.

Nida Dar (Pakistan)

Nida Dar is inarguably Pakistan's finest T20I player, their most successful bowler and an explosive batter. However, she has endured a reasonably lean patch in the recent past for the national side - registering consecutive ducks against England, and being unable to keep the English batters on a leash. What, however, will be the crucial factor with her presence, will be her WBBL experience with the Melbourne Thunder in the recently-concluded season. Even as she had to acclimatize to the Australian conditions, she made noteworthy contributions with both bat and ball. Given that Pakistan will be without several experienced players in the World Cup, and several teenagers with limited international exposure, she will also have to rise as a leader in the setup. A lot rests on her experience and the game-changing ability for Pakistan to cause a few upsets.

Chanida Sutthiruang (Thailand)

Sutthiruang was recently named the ICC Women's Emerging Player of the Year for her role in Thailand's qualification for the 2020 T20 WC.

In many ways the face of Thailand's rise through the ranks, Chanida Sutthiruang's upturn has coincided with that of cricket in her country. A fast bowler by trade, Sutthiruang has been around the senior circuit for seven years now, having worked her way up through the cricket academies. She was recently named the ICC Women's Emerging Player of the Year for her role in Thailand's qualification for the 2020 T20 WC, which will be their first ever. Sutthiruang picked up 12 wickets in five qualifier matches at an economy rate of 4.16, finishing not just as the leading wicket-taker but also as the Player of the Tournament. Sutthiruang is handy with the bat lower down the order and could probably earn a promotion further up, like in the recently-concluded Women's T20 Quadrangular Series in Patna where she had scores of 19-ball 18 and 17-ball 24* batting in the top four.

Jahanara Alam (Bangladesh)

Bangladesh may have been convincingly whitewashed in their only bilateral international series since the last T20 WC - against Pakistan - but Jahanara Alam stood out with her exceptional showing with the ball. The pacer returned nine wickets in three games, at an economy rate of 4.67. She has the ability to strike early as well keep a check on the late assault. The 26-year-old played a key part in the side's wins in the Quadrangular series in India as well as the World Cup qualifiers With the team management hoping for some useful contributions with the bat as well from her, she is arguably Bangladesh's best bet going into the tournament.

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