Women's Cricket World Cup 2022: Australia's dominance, South African pacers, key takeaways from tournament

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Women's Cricket World Cup 2022: Australia's dominance, South African pacers, key takeaways from tournament
© Provided by Firstpost Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022: Australia’s dominance, South African pacers, key takeaways from tournament

Australia, who had won the second, fourth, sixth, eighth, and tenth editions of the Women’s World Cup, now won the twelfth, in New Zealand 2022, to complete a delight for the trivia buffs. England made it to the final after losing their first three matches, New Zealand crashed out at home, India cried as Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami bowed out of World Cup cricket, Alyssa Healy emerged as the Bully of the Knockouts, and every team won at least one match.

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All in all, it was a wonderful tournament – probably the most intense in history – replete with moments, memories, and takeaways.

Australia are miles ahead

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Between the two World Cups, Australia had won 31 matches and lost two. To nobody’s surprise, they stretched the record to 40-2. Their world record streak of 26 wins – by far the longest in history – came to a halt against India last year. Some teams could have gone on a decline. The unperturbed Australians simply began a fresh run, and have won 12 on the trot now.

This was Australia’s seventh World Cup title in 12 attempts. They have won five of these seven trophies – in 1978, 1982, 1997, 2005, and 2022 – without losing a single match. To further emphasise their domination, they have won 70 matches and lost only 11 (in other words, below one defeat per tournament) in the history of the World Cup.

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Neither their streak nor absolute domination in the World Cup is a fluke. The Australian success story is an outcome of years of preparation and investment. The Women’s Big Bash and Women’s National Cricket League have contributed towards it.

Both leagues are fiercely competitive. This is in stark contrast with India, which does not have a major league featuring international cricketers. And in domestic cricket, the aggressive recruitment policy of the Indian Railways has reduced domestic cricket to a monopoly since Air India stopped featuring in the tournaments.

Additionally, the WBBL and WNCL teams are fed by a robust club cricket system. The annual National Cricket Census (yes, there exists an audit in Australia) has shown a year-on-year growth of over 10% in women taking up cricket, even in the Covid-19 era.

It is not about Australia alone…

Australia won the trophy because they had prepared better. The same can be said about England, where the Kia Super League, based on the WBBL model, ran with some success. And both the quality of cricket and audience response were fantastic when The Hundred was launched last year. As Australia and England showed, no camp, no amount of domestic cricket can make up for lack of tournaments of this magnitude.

As other teams felt the pressure, the Australians kept their calm and either dominated matches or converted tight situations into wins. The English cricketers, used to playing long tournaments, did not allow an initial slump to get to them.

South Africa were not a major force in the format until about five years ago. However, they now boast of several cricketers who feature in top-level tournaments in both Australia and England. That helped them outdo some teams that do not. The exposure helped them hone their ability to keep calm under pressure and convert tight endings to wins. And they did it without Dane van Niekerk, who had led Oval Invincibles to title win in the inaugural season of The Hundred.

But that is not what set South Africa apart…

The trendsetting Proteans

The World Cup was essentially dominated by spin. The spinners of six out of eight teams had significantly better bowling averages than the pacers of the same countries. The Indian seamers did better than the Indian spinners, but with a worse economy rate.

The eighth team was South Africa, whose fast bowlers took 47 wickets at 25.21. Their spinners, a mere four, at 120.25 apiece. No wonder South Africa bowled 36 overs of seam per 50. For perspective, the number read 22 for India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, while the four other teams kept it under 32.

Shabnim Ismail, Marizanne Kapp, and Ayabonga Khaka are not merely special. As a group, they were unique in this World Cup.

Team Pace Spin Total
W Ave Econ W Ave Econ W Ave Econ Pace/50 ov
Australia 29 35.83 4.83 38 20.74 4.26 67 27.27 4.57 27
Bangladesh 17 32.71 4.45 24 30.75 4.17 41 31.56 4.28 21
England 26 47.00 4.72 34 17.59 3.91 60 30.33 4.42 31
India 24 26.04 4.73 26 28.00 4.21 50 27.06 4.44 22
New Zealand 31 29.32 4.73 22 25.82 4.42 53 27.87 4.61 30
Pakistan 10 51.90 5.62 28 29.36 4.52 38 35.29 4.89 17
West Indies 22 35.27 5.22 24 30.38 4.75 46 32.72 4.98 25
South Africa 47 25.21 4.75 4 120.25 5.17 51 32.67 4.86 36
Non-South Africa 159 35.51 4.85 196 25.36 4.32 355 29.91 4.59 25
Total 206 33.16 4.83 200 27.26 4.38 406 30.25 4.62 27

Greatest World Cup ever?

Despite Australia’s ruthless domination and the three one-sided knockout matches, there is little doubt over this being the most hard-fought World Cup of all time. Of the 16 matches won by the side batting first, six were by a margin of 12 runs or fewer. And six of the 14 successful chases were by less than either three wickets or seven balls (there were three overlaps).

That takes the count of ‘close’ matches to 12 out of 30 – a whopping 40 percent. These 12 matches involved all eight teams as well, further emphasising how close the tournament was.

Nothing can hold them back

Bismah Maroof’s legacy will go far beyond her achievements on the field. In a society that often tells women to make choices between career and family, she’s showing that you can have both! Such an inspiring person.pic.twitter.com/Vp7EB2iwKd

— Aatif Nawaz (@AatifNawaz) March 6, 2022

Few were as photographed during the World Cup as Fatima, Bismah Maroof’s six-month-old daughter who travelled with her mother to the World Cup – and to the venue for every match. Maroof’s cradle celebrations after she reached her fifty became as popular as Afy Fletcher’s gestures when she took a wicket. Fletcher would pretend to video call her son Audee, about a month than Fatima, back home as part of her celebrations.

But the photographs and videos hardly tell the story. Torn between playing cricket and witnessing every phase of Audee’s growing up, Fletcher had even contemplated quitting the sport. Maroof would have, but for PCB’s excellent maternity leave policy.

Pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood are among many hurdles in the path of a female cricketer – something unimaginable for their male counterparts. For the latter, the struggles are usually restricted to cricket, not beyond it. For women, it merely starts there.

To cite an example, not one member of the Indian Women team that went to the 2022 World Cup is married. For many, continuing a married life and international cricket is simply not feasible.

Time for the push

ICC has over a hundred members – and yet, only a handful feature in the World Cup, reducing the tournament name to an oxymoron. The usual reason is the gap between the top teams and the rest. However, as the above point demonstrated, while Australia were dominant, each of the other seven teams was capable of pushing the others.

Why not expand the World Cup, then? Sri Lanka beat Netherlands in their only match in last November’s World Cup Qualifiers before it had to be called off due to Covid-19. Thailand, too, beat three of their four oppositions (including Bangladesh, who beat Pakistan and almost beat West Indies in the World Cup).

The World Cup had 11 teams in 1997, a number that has never been emulated since. The time to surpass that count has arrived.

Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor at CricketNews and co-author of Sachin and Azhar at Cape Town.

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