After a year's delay caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the ICC Women's Cricket World Cup will finally commence from March 4. Hosts New Zealand will take on the West Indies at the Bay Oval in Tauranga.
New Zealand head into the tournament off the back of a 4-1 series win against India and a thumping victory over Australia in their second warm-up match, including 161 not out for captain Sophie Devine.
"It's hugely exciting. It's been a tournament that's long been coming up with Covid delays here and there but to think that we are finally here, tomorrow it all kicks off, it is certainly extremely exciting. I know this group is ready, we have obviously had fantastic prep, we have come off a heavy diet of cricket over the summer and I don't think we could be any better prepared heading into this World Cup, so we're really excited to finally get going. It'll be interesting to see how the sleep goes tonight. I've tried to have a few naps today and they've not been that successful!" said Sophie ahead of the tournament opener.
The last time New Zealand won the ICC Women's Cricket World Cup, it was in 2000 where the hosts' saw off a thrilling challenge from Australia to win the trophy on home soil. Sophie is well aware of the same expectations from her team to reach the final on March 3.
"This tournament has been a long time coming and there is absolutely going to be nerves, there is going to be pressure, there is going to be expectation. We'd be silly to think that those things won't be there, especially being a home World Cup and the host country, there is expectation there," stated Sophie.
"But again, we've spoken at length as a group that we can only control what we can control and that is out on that cricket field. We're embracing all the small wee different things but there's a lot of familiarity. Obviously coming back here to Bay Oval, we have played a lot of cricket here, we've done a lot of training camps here, so it's nice to come back to familiar surroundings. At the end of the day, we just need to focus on what we can control and it's another game of cricket, so we just need to make sure that we're tuned into that."
West Indies captain Stafanie isn't concerned by the pressure New Zealand will be under. Instead, she feels it is about who will be the better team on the match day. West Indies had reached the final of the 2013 Women's Cricket World Cup in India, but lost to Australia. Though they won the 2016 Women's T20 World Cup against the same opposition in the same country, West Indies can be giant killers on their day.
"We don't talk about if they're under pressure. I think that's for them, we tried to zone in on us and what we need to do to perform well. We had a practice session today and we worked on areas that we need to work on to prepare ourselves for tomorrow. Anything we do tomorrow, we just know we have to do it well, you have to play to the best of your ability. New Zealand is in good form, but it's all about the day and who'll perform."
Stafanie asserted that anything above 200 runs when batting first will do good for her team, something they missed in their warm-up losses to Australia and India. "We had our meeting and we said that to be competitive, we have to be scoring over 200 runs and, in the two games that we played, we didn't do. So that's something that we've had a look at and moving forward that is something that we need to work on," concluded Stafanie.
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