SA, Pak vying for final spot in Super Sixes
ICC Women's World Twenty20 2012 champion and five-time ICC Women's World Cup winner Australia start off as the favourites to qualify for the Super Six stage of this week's ICC Women's World Cup 2013 from Group B which also includes New Zealand, Pakistan and South Africa.
Alongside Australia, New Zealand, which lifted the trophy back in 2000 and were runner-up in the last ICC Women's World Cup back in 2009, will also be seen as favourites to qualify for the Super Six stage of the event which is being staged between Mumbai and Cuttack from 31 January to 17 February.
Pakistan and South Africa, qualified for the event after finishing second and fourth in the ICC Women's World Cup Qualifier 2011 staged in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Pakistan made the final of that event, losing to West Indies in the final by 130 runs while South Africa played Sri Lanka in the third/fourth play-off and lost that match by three wickets.
The Group B teams will be in action on the second day of the tournament on Friday 1 February when Australia play Pakistan at Barabati Stadium, while New Zealand will take on South Africa at DRIEMS Cricket Ground in Cuttack.
On 3 February, New Zealand will play Pakistan at Barabati Stadium while Australia will go up against South Africa at DRIEMS Cricket Ground but the final day of Group B fixtures on 5 February could prove to be the most exciting.
The last set of fixtures in Group B will see old rivals Australia and New Zealand go head-to-head at the DRIEMS Cricket Ground, while Pakistan will take on the ever improving South Africa in a bid to ensure it will qualify for the Super Six stage of the event.
Australia and New Zealand have met 115 times. Australia has won 84 matches and New Zealand have been winners 29 times with two ending in a no-result.
Of the Australia squad heading to India, led by Jodie Fields, two, Lisa Sthalekar and Alex Blackwell, have tasted World Cup glory, having featured in the 2005 team that lifted the trophy.
Besides Blackwell and Sthalekar, another member of the 2005 winning team is also with the side, Cathryn Fitzpatrick is now the head coach. Fitzpatrick's assistant is former Canada men's team opening batsman John Davison.
The youngest member of the team is 17-year-old Holly Ferling, while regular followers of the Australia women's team will recognise a number of the team from the recent ICC Women's World Twenty 2012 winning side, including all-rounder Ellyse Perry and batting duo Alyssa Healy and Jess Cameron.
One player to watch is in-form batter, Meg Lanning, who recently scored the fastest century by an Australian male or female player in an ODI.
The right-handed batter, born in Singapore, smashed her way to a 45-ball 100 in 55 minutes against New Zealand in December last year during the Rose Bowl Series and will be hoping for some repeat performances here in India.
New Zealand will be led by the charismatic Suzie Bates who will have a wealth of experience in her side including the likes of Lucy Doolan, Nicola Browne, Sophie Devine, Sara McGlashan, Rachael Priest and Sian Ruck.
Two faces to watch will be 22-year-old Morna Nielsen, a spinner from Tauranga along with medium-pacer Lea Tahuhu from Christchurch.
South Africa will be led by batter Mignon du Preez, while the side has welcomed back into the fold former captain Cri-Zelda Brits who temporarily took a step back from international cricket.
The side is currently ranked eighth in the world rankings, while its highest ranked players in the Reliance ICC Women's Player Rankings for ODI batters are du Preez (16th), Tricia Chetty (17th) and Brits (18th).
In the bowling rankings, Sunette Loubser is the only South African in the top 20, however her compatriot, Dane van Niekerk is 21st. Van Niekerk had a strong performance in side's recent ODI and T20I tour to the West Indies where she claimed 10 ODI wickets, including a hat-trick in one of the ODIs.
If previous results are any guide, then South Africa may knock Pakistan out of the group. The two sides have met nine times in ODIs, with South Africa being victorious on seven occasions, while Pakistan have won once with one no result.
However that being said, Pakistan's only win over South Africa came recently - the last time the two teams met - at the ICC Women's World Cup Qualifier in 2011, when Pakistan beat the Proteas by three wickets.
Pakistan will be led by Sana Mir who will be hoping the sub-continent conditions suit her team of talented bowlers including spinner Nida Dar and the as yet uncapped medium-pacer Diana Baig.
The all-round skills of vice-captain Bismah Maroof will also prove important for the side if the team is to remain in the competition past the group stage.
Group B squads
AUSTRALIA - Jodie Fields (captain), Alex Blackwell (vice-captain), Jess Cameron, Rene Chappell, Sarah Coyte, Holly Ferling, Rachael Haynes, Alyssa Healy, Julie Hunter, Meg Lanning, Erin Osborne, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Lisa Sthalekar, Elyse Villani.
NEW ZEALAND - Suzie Bates (captain), Amy Satterthwaite (vice-captain), Kate Broadmore, Nicola Browne, Rachel Candy, Sophie Devine, Natalie Dodd, Lucy Doolan, Sara McGlashan, Frances Mackay, Morna Nielsen, Katie Perkins, Rachel Priest, Sian Ruck, Lea-Marie Tahuhu.
PAKISTAN - Sana Mir (captain), Bismah Maroof (vice-captain), Nain Abidi, Sidra Amin, Diana Baig, Elizebath Barkat, Nahida Bibi, Qanita Jalil, Asmavia Iqbal Khokhar, Syeda Batool Fatima Naqvi, Nida Rashid, Rabiya Shah, Sumaiya Siddiqui, Javeria Wadood, Sadia Yousaf.
SOUTH AFRICA - Mignon du Preez (captain), Trisha Chetty (vice-captain), Susanna Benade, Cri-Zelda Brits, Savanna Cordes, Dinesha Devnarain, Shandre Fritz, Shabnim Ismail, Marizanne Kapp, Marcia Letsoalo, Sunette Loubser, Yolandi Potgieter, Elriesa Theunissen, Chloe Tryon, Dane van Niekerk.
Group B fixtures (all venues in Cuttack):
Fri 1 Feb - New Zealand v South Africa, DRIEMS Cricket Ground; Australia v Pakistan, Barabati Stadium
Sun 3 Feb - Australia v South Africa, DRIEMS Cricket Ground, Cuttack; New Zealand v Pakistan, Barabati Stadium
Tues 5 Feb - Australia v New Zealand, DRIEMS Cricket Ground; Pakistan v South Africa, Barabati Stadium