World Cup Launch Party: Who Said What?

Well, this is it - we’re less than 24 hours away from the start of the biggest World Cup in the history of the women’s game - and I was lucky enough to make it along to yesterday’s media drinks event to celebrate that fact.

In particularly lavish surroundings at the National Liberal Club, seven of the eight captains who will be fighting it out over the next few weeks spoke to members of the media about their hopes, their dreams, and the trashy TV choices of their team mates…

Heather Knight was first up. Calm and collected, she spoke of feeling “in good nick” going into the tournament, despite her recent foot injury. How are England coping with the pressure of a home World Cup? “As a group we’re trying to stay in our bubble a bit, and not let too many external things come into it. The bubble is all about concentrating on us and what we do. A lot of us have decided to come off Twitter and use social media more scarcely.” Interesting, though doesn’t quite seem to amount to a total ban. Even more interesting (to someone like myself who loves trashy reality TV) was what England are doing to switch off from the bubble: “A lot of the girls are watching a dreadful TV programme called Love Island…”

Mural at the National Liberal Club. Will England be celebrating like this in 4 weeks time? Only time will tell...

Suzie Bates followed. She described being bowled out for 130 by England in their warm-up match as “a hiccup… the plan is not to have another day like that!” For her this is the most confident she has ever been ahead of a World Cup: “this in my mind is our best opportunity [to win] -  the experienced players we have got, the age we’re at.” Who does she see as her one key player? “Going on recent form, Amy Satterthwaite. In 50 over cricket she’s really held the team together, and she’s in the best form of her career.”

Stafanie Taylor was next. She spoke of the “challenge” of having so many young players in the squad who have had no exposure to international cricket, and showed great self-awareness about the centrality of her own role to the team. “If I don’t play in a game, the team seems to struggle. I have to remind them that you guys do have the belief and you’re talented, and you can do it. A lot of us lack that belief, so it’s [my job] to remind them of that.”

Mithali Raj is my new feminist kick-ass icon. Enough said.

I’ve not interviewed Dane van Niekerk before, but she was brilliant value. I asked whether she felt this team had the best chance of any South African team in history of getting their hands on some silverware. “Yes. We’ve got the best team that I’ve ever played with. That is why I’m so positive. The skill in our group is immense, and the variation is exciting.” Is Shabnim Ismail really the quickest bowler in world cricket? “Yes. Definitely. I’d back her to the end of the world.” Fortunately Ismail and Marizanne Kapp are also agreed on that point: “They sorted that out between them! Kappie says she’s a swing bowler!”

Meg Lanning airily dismissed claims that her side might be weaker in the pace bowling department than they would like. “I think our pace bowlers, especially since we’ve come over here to the UK, have been bowling really well and providing good options for us. We feel like across our whole squad we’ve got good variety, so it’s just going to come down to conditions, and the best line up we think is going to win the game for us.” Will we see Sarah Aley making her debut? “Yes, potentially. She played well today in the practice game. She’s come into the squad and done really well, settled in nicely, provides a medium pace option for us.”

Meg Lanning looking less than convinced about Australia’s chances of winning the World Cup the coffee on offer in England

Sana Mir was the last and perhaps the most eloquent interview of the day. She was passionate about the issues her side have faced in recent years and how proud she was of the way they had dealt with those setbacks: “I’m very proud of the way the girls have lifted their game, especially after not having international cricket. In the circumstances that we’ve got, we have pulled off some amazing victories at times.” Could they pull off some surprises in the group stages of this World Cup? “We can put any team under pressure.”

After the media interviews were done, there was a big dinner with all the great and the good of cricket, including Dave Richardson, ICC Chief Executive:

So last night confirms what we basically already knew: this tournament is a Big Deal for women’s cricket. Perhaps the Biggest Deal in its history (I should know!) And it’s safe to say that I’m a bit excited now. Actually, a lot excited. THIS excited:


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