Pakistan women are ready for their World T20


As England’s women concluded their preparations for their bid to reclaim the World Twenty20 title, their opponents in Thursday’s opening match in Galle were sipping tea as they watched from the boundary of the Moors Cricket Club in Colombo.
There is something surprising, even intriguing, about the notion that Pakistan can field a women’s international cricket team. But they insist it should no longer be seen as any big deal.
“We have been playing since 2005, and now all of our players are paid by the Pakistan Cricket Board, just as in every other country,” said their manager, Ayesha Rasheed, as England were crushing South Africa in their final warm-up match. “Women are going out to work, to do everything the same as men, and our matches are now being watched by families.
“Before we came away we had Aamir Sohail, Javed Miandad and Intikhab Alam working with the girls. Our domestic competition even has a team from Fata [the Federally Administered Tribal Areas] in Waziristan, and this team has players from Quetta, from Abbotabad, from all over the country.”
Pakistan are unlikely to challenge, especially having been drawn in a group that includes India and Australia, as well as England. But their presence will still enrich an eight-team competition that will be played entirely in Galle until the four semi-finalists head north to Colombo to dovetail with the men’s tournament at the end of next week.
It would be a major surprise if England are not among them. In the Moors pavilion, Mark Lane, the former Hampshire second-team wicketkeeper who has been coaching them since 2008, said the team are focused on making amends for the previous World T20 in the Caribbean in 2010. Then, England, winners of the inaugural tournament at Lord’s in 2009, failed to make the last four after losing to Australia and West Indies.
“We’ve had a great preparation,” said Lane, reflecting on comfortable home victories over Pakistan and West Indies, followed by a powerful batting display against South Africa in which Edwards retired after reaching a half-century. “But this is T20, and the last game of the West Indies series showed again that anything can happen, when Deandra Dottin made 60-odd and won them the match.”
Dottin, the niece of the West Indies and former England bowling coach Ottis Gibson, is one of several players with well-known cricketing connections. West Indies are coached by the former Test opener Sherwin Campbell, and Australia include Alyssa Healy, daughter of Greg and niece of Ian who spent some time in Yorkshire this summer with her boyfriend, the fast bowler Mitchell Starc.
But women’s cricket is producing plenty of stars in its own right, of whom the Sussex wicketkeeper-batsman Sarah Taylor is regarded as England’s brightest. She was blistering with the bat, even by her own standards, in dominating a second-wicket partnership with Edwards on Saturday, as fruit bats and parrakeets flew over the ground. As Lane says, anything can happen in Twenty20. But England look in good shape to make up for their Caribbean disappointment.