The fixtures for the ICC Women's T20 World Cup 2020 in Australia were revealed on Tuesday, 29 January, with the reiteration of the goal to sell out the MCG for the final on 8 March and break the record for the most spectators at a women's game.
Australia, the defending champions, who will be on the hunt for their fifth title, are aware of the benefits as well as the pitfalls that come with a home tournament. Especially since only once has the home team won the event.
"A home World Cup is a whole other thing. There's going to be a lot of pressure and a lot of excitement as well," said Meg Lanning, the captain, who led the side to the title in the Caribbean in 2018.
Not since the first Women's #T20WorldCup have the hosts won the tournament.— ICC T20 World Cup (@T20WorldCup) January 29, 2019
Australia, set to host the 2020 edition, are four-time champions.
Can they break the curse?
➡️ https://t.co/bt3MfAEtuY pic.twitter.com/LNMIwkTZjA
Alex Blackwell, the former captain, who lifted the trophy in 2010, urged the players to make the most of the opportunity. "The Australian players should utilise that crowd, get the crowd behind them, especially in the crunch moments," she said. "Virat Kohli (the India men's captain) does that really well."
The finals of the ICC Women's World T20 2018 and the ICC Women's World Cup 2017 were both played in front of sell-out crowds, in Antigua and at Lord's respectively. Yet, the capacity of the MCG is several times more, with more than 90,000 people expected to show up.
Perhaps the closest comparable number in a women's cricket game is the 1997 World Cup final at Eden Gardens, when Australia defeated New Zealand before a vocal crowd that numbered more than 50,000, with some estimates putting the number at 70,000. But that event was not fully ticketed.
Belinda Clark, who was captain that day, said that to see a packed stadium in Australia would be a sign of just how far things have come. "It'll be amazing to play in front of so many people," she told Mel Jones, who also played that match, at the fixtures launch. "It will mean a lot to me and the former players as well, to see how far we've come.
"There'll be so many boys and girls watching. They'll be thinking that's the norm, and that's the exciting thing about this competition."
Alyssa Healy, Australia's wicket-keeper batter who was Player of the Tournament in 2018, said it would be a day to cherish. "I don't think you can prepare for that," she said. "It's just going to be one of those moments in your career that you look back on."
In @Melbourne on March 8, International Women's Day 2020, the @MCG hosts the @ICC Women's #T20WorldCup final!— ICC T20 World Cup (@T20WorldCup) January 28, 2019
The match presents an opportunity to set a world record attendance to a women's sporting fixture, which stands at 90,185. pic.twitter.com/RLKdEawsuo
But, she cautioned, for Australia to get there, they have to do a lot of things right. They are in a tricky group, with the likes of India, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and a qualifier. In fact, the tournament opens with the big game against India, who have got the better of the women in green and gold the last two times they've met in big events.
"When I saw the fixtures announcement, I said, 'Damnit!'" laughed Healy. "I was hoping to avoid them. India are such a powerhouse in the cricketing world, on the rise in the women's game, which I think is special. They've got some serious players they're going to unleash. It's Harmanpreet Kaur's home ground [from the Women's Big Bash League], the Spotless Stadium, so definitely one to watch."
Blackwell agreed that India would pose a threat, as would New Zealand. "India are positioned to make a final," she said. "Sometimes we see [Kaur] play within herself. But when she goes out there 100%, she's proven to be very hard to stop. And Sophie Devine, she keeps getting better and better."