India strong contenders for Women’s World T20: Skipper Mithali

Bengaluru, March 14 (IANS) India skipper Mithali Raj believes the hosts are strong contenders for the Women’s World Twenty20 title and should be able to qualify for the semi-finals.

“With the kind of momentum we have, we should at least qualify for the semi-finals. From there, it’s anyone’s game,” the experienced Mithali said on Monday.

In the tournament opener on Tuesday, hosts India will square-off against Bangladesh here in an afternoon match. It will be followed by an evening match in New Delhi when two-time finalists New Zealand take on Sri Lanka.

Australia have won the last three tournaments in 2010, 2012 and 2014 after England clinched the inaugural event at home in 2009. India, semi-finalists in the first two editions, will look to make up for an early exit in 2012 and 2014 with a dominant performance on home pitches.

Mithali said other teams had broken Australia and England’s stranglehold on the game.

“Earlier it used to feel like those two teams were way ahead of the rest, but now the gap is closing. After our last two series wins, we too are strong contenders for the World Twenty20,” she said.

Defending champions Australia have been drawn alongside Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and Sri Lanka in Group A in the 10-nation event. The other group comprises Bangladesh, England, India, Pakistan and the West Indies with the top two teams from each group advancing to the semi-finals.

The women’s semi-finals on March 30 and 31 and the final on April 3 will be played in the lead up to the men’s matches on the same days and at the same venues.

Only three sides — Australia, England and New Zealand — have appeared in Women’s World T20 finals but the emergence of India and South Africa as serious contenders has spiced up the race. Mithali’s girls stunned Australia 2-1 Down Under in January while South Africa claimed their first-ever T20I win over England last month.

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