Women's Cricket

Road to 2021 World Cup: India to open ICC Women’s Championship campaign versus South Africa

Mithali Raj and Co, who have not played international cricket since the World Cup final in July, will at least play 21 ODIs from 2018-2019.

The second edition of the ICC Women’s ODI World Championship, the qualification format for the 2021 World Cup, was launched in New Delhi on Monday by Mithali Raj and skipper Anjum Chopra. India will play three matches in South Africa in February as part of the Round 1 of the championship which will be held from 2017-2020.

India, who have not played international cricket since losing the World Cup final to hosts England in July, will at least play 21 ODIs from 2018-2019.

Mithali Raj and Co will play two games against South Africa in Kimberly on February 5 and 7 before travelling to Potchefstrom on February 10 for the final game.

The Women’s Championship will be played in the same format as the inaugural edition, which was held from 2014-16. All the eight sides – Australia, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and West Indies – will take on each other in series of three ODIs on a home or away basis.

Hosts New Zealand and the three other top teams will gain direct qualification for the 2021 World Cup while the remaining four sides will get a second chance through the ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier, where they will be joined by six teams from four regions Africa, Asia, East Asia Pacific and Europe.

The West Indies host Sri Lanka for the first series of the Championship, from October 11-15 while England and Australia play each other from October 22-29.

With the World T20 slated to be held in the West Indies in November 2018, India veteran Mithali Raj said it would be a good idea to squeeze in at least a couple of T20s alongside the 50-over Women’s Championship.

Comparing the current situation with the past, Raj said the Indian team looks set to play a sizeable number of international matches.

“To start off, I think 21 over two years is a good enough number. Before the ODI Championship, we would have played not more than 10-12 games in the same period. 21 is a good enough and I am sure it will only get better.

“May be if the boards [India and South Africa in this case] are interested, they can squeeze in a couple of T20s [with the ODI Championship],” said the 34-year-old.

The ICC too will welcome such a move by the two teams competing in the ODI Championship.

“Member boards will be encouraged to play T20Is during tours but no other ODIs can be scheduled along with Women’s Championship series. Teams will get two points for each win, one point for a tie or no-result and no points for a loss,” said the ICC in a statement.

It also remains to be seen whether India will be ready to play Pakistan as part of the Championship. India had forfeited their matches against Pakistan in the inaugural edition and ICC penalised them by docking all six points possible from the scheduled series.

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