The tenth edition of the ICC Women’s World Cup, which concluded last Sunday, was rightly regarded as the best played due to the quality of cricket played and the open nature of the tournament. Probably for the first time, the top teams like Australia and England were given serious competition by the second-rung sides such as the West Indies and Sri Lanka. In the end, it was fancied Australia that lifted the title by convincingly beating the West Indies by 114 runs, but not before they had been upset by the same team in the last Super Six game. The batswomen in particular had a good time compared to previous editions, with as many as 11 individual centuries being notched.
Two teams which deserve all the adulation for the way they played in the tournament are the West Indies and Sri Lanka. The girls from the Caribbean reached the final for the first time ever, on the way defeating heavyweights like New Zealand and Australia, the latter for the first time in history. All rounder Deandra Dottin confirmed herself as the most devastating hitter of the ball in women’s cricket, but unfortunately she could not click in the final, where her team faltered in a stiff chase of 259. She boasted a strike rate of 127 in 7 matches and her rapid 60 in the must-win Super Six game against Australia paved the way for the West Indies’ entry into the final. Another hard-hitting West Indian, Stefanie Taylor, smashed the highest individual score of the tournament as she smashed 171 runs in just 137 balls against Sri Lanka to help her side to a mammoth 368/8, easily the highest team total of the tournament.
Sri Lanka stunned everyone by clinching victories against England and India in the group stage, and in spite of a 209 run defeat to West Indies, made it to the Super Six at hosts India’s expense. This was the first time that Sri Lanka had beaten both England and India, and their surprisingly comfortable victory over India delighted many neutral fans. For long regarded as one of the weakest teams in women’s cricket, the islanders were admirably led by Shashikala Siriwardene. But the real star for Sri Lanka was Eshani Kaushalya, who struck 56 in 41 balls against England as her team scored a thrilling 1-wicket win. Against India, she was even better, thumping 56* off just 31 balls as the hosts crashed to a 138-run loss. She also contributed with 43 to help Sri Lanka beat South Africa in the play-off and finish 5th – a very commendable and heart-warming performance.
The other two Asian teams were disappointing and eventually took up the bottom two spots, with India and Pakistan finishing 7th and 8th respectively. India started off a bright note by easing past the West Indies, but back-to-back losses to England and Sri Lanka meant that Mithali Raj’s outfit was knocked out in the group stage itself. India recorded three individual centurions (Harmanpreet Kaur, Raj and Thirush Kamini), but could not translate into a good team showing. However the weakest-looking team in the competition was Pakistan, who lost four games, in which their highest total was just 192. Uncertainty over their participation due to unnecessary political squabbles before the tournament did not help their cause. South Africa were also very patchy, and finally settled for 6th place, with two wins in their kitty. Their total of 77 against England was the lowest of the tournament.
Defending champions England were robbed of a final spot in spite of defeating New Zealand in their last Super Six game, as West Indies upset Australia on the same day to qualify instead. Charlotte Edwards’ Englishwomen did manage to secure the third place though, by beating New Zealand again. Edwards herself was in good form throughout, finishing as the third-highest run getter with two hundreds. She was left to rue her team’s two very close defeats – by one wicket to Sri Lanka in the group stage and by just 2 runs (chasing 147) against Australia in the Super Six. These results ultimately cost England a chance at retaining their title. Their right-arm medium pacer Anya Shrubsole was hugely impressive, taking 13 wickets to finish as the second-highest wicket-taker including a haul of 5/17 against South Africa – the best bowling figures of the tournament. She made herself noticed by a great ability to swing the ball both ways, even on dry surfaces.
New Zealand lost three consecutive matches – to the West Indies and twice to England to eventually finish 4th after showing more promise earlier on. Their captain Suzie Bates had a great campaign personally, as she finished as the leading run-scorer in the tournament by some distance – she logged 407 runs in 7 games at 67.83, 93 more than anyone else. The leading wicket-taker was the Australian seam bowler Megan Schutt, who collected 15 wickets in 7 games at just 16.53, including two in the final. The bowling star of the final though was the ever-persistent Ellyse Perry. The 22 year-old right-arm pace-woman’s participation itself in the final was in doubt after an injury, but she quelled all doubts by not only taking 3/19 in a breathtaking spell but also hitting a quick 25* to give the Australian innings much-needed impetus. In spite of not being fully fit, Perry’s hunger was symbolic of her team’s determination to win a record 6th world title, especially after the Super Six reverse against the Windies. Jess Cameron, who had an ordinary tournament until then, made herself count by making 75 in the final to lead her side to 259/7, which proved enough for the bowlers to defend.
The 2013 Women’s World Cup, though watched by few in the stands, was well-followed throughout the cricket world, and the see-saw nature of the tournament hooked many fans. This should serve as a message to the ICC to further enhance the women’s game and arrange for more fixtures for all teams. In fact, given that the hitherto weaker teams have improved by leaps and bounds, this is the time to develop and promote the game in such countries. All in all, a very well-contested tournament and deservedly won by Australia, also known as the ‘Southern Stars’ – who were undoubtedly the most consistent and well-oiled team throughout the tournament’s 18 days.