THE stage has been set for the International Cricket Council Women’s World Cup Qualifier 2021 that gets underway in Harare tomorrow.
It’s a massive tournament, which has brought eight countries into Harare, to join the proud hostesses, the Lady Chevrons, in the battle for three slots up for grabs for an appearance at the ICC Women World Cup in New Zealand, next year.
From tomorrow until December 5, Zimbabwe will be the playground for some of the best cricket playing nations in the world as the women showcase their talents for the cause of their countries.
The West Indies are here, to try and fight their way to the World Cup, where the likes of Australia, England, India, South Africa and New Zealand already lie in wait.
Sri Lanka, Ireland, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand and the United States are also here and will battle in a global festival of cricket for the three tickets to New Zealand.
The ICC believe this is a landmark tournament which could have a huge impact on the state of the women’s game around the world over the next few years.
And, for us, as Zimbabweans, it is our pleasure that we have once again been entrusted with the responsibility to be the country which will host such a big international tournament.
It’s a massive responsibility because it’s not every time that an African country is given such a huge task to not only ensure that it hosts such a big tournament, but crucially, because the world governing body believe everything will go according to plan.
This means the ICC are convinced that we are, as we have been preaching for a long time now, a very safe destination, not only for the best cricketers to come and showcase their talents, but even for the tourists to come and enjoy our sights and sounds.
The safety of the teams is the ICC’s main priority and for them to have decided that we have the capacity to ensure that all these visiting athletes will be very safe within our borders, is a huge vote of confidence in us.
The Second Republic has been going into overdrive to spruce up our image and their efforts are being rewarded, slowly but surely, with the world once again investing its confidence in our ability to deliver.
After all, we have once again been given the responsibility, together with South Africa and Namibia, to host the 2027 Men’s ICC Cricket World Cup.
Of course, it’s not the first time we have hosted such a big cricket tournament and, crucially, turned it into a success, which charmed the world.
Three years ago, we successfully hosted the ICC World Cup 2019 men’s qualifier in Bulawayo and Harare, which was eventually won by Afghanistan.
The sights of thousands of locals trooping to watch the games and the sights and sounds they produced, especially as they sought to inspire the Chevrons to the World Cup, left some lasting images for the world’s cricket family.
An estimated 12 000 fans packed Harare Sports Club to the rafters on the day the Chevrons needed to beat the United Arab Emirates and book their place at the World Cup, with gates being closed as a security precaution.
By the time the tournament was over, the then ICC chief executive, David Richardson, reserved special praise for the way we organised the tournament and congratulated Afghanistan and the Windies, for qualifying for the World Cup.
Richardson, who was in Harare for the final phase of the tournament, said the superb organisation, and the tough matches, left a huge impression around the world.
“The ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier has seen some highly competitive and enthralling cricket with all sides producing some fine performances in their quest to qualify for the World Cup,’’ he noted.
“Thank you to all of the teams who have competed and contributed to such an intense and exciting event.”
Three years later, we now have some of the best women cricket playing nations in the world on our doorstep as they battle for a place at the World Cup next year.
Given the importance, which the world is giving to women’s sport, it means that the eyes of the globe will firmly be fixed on our country and we owe it to them to provide a successful tournament.
Papua New Guinea were set to be the 10th participating nation but the outbreak of Covid-19 cases, in their camp, meant they were unable to come here, to stake their claim.
It’s a grim reminder of the challenges the world still faces, with the pandemic showing no signs of letting up, as the European winter has brought with it a steady rise in infections across that continent.
That is why sport remains the outlet, through which the world, even as it faces some of its biggest challenges, can find a way to forget about all that and, for a moment, celebrate success.
Of course, we will be rooting for our team, the Lady Chevrons, and our hope is that they will find a way to compete against very tough opponents, and make us all proud.
We are aware they are lightweights, in such company, but that’s the beauty of sport that, until it’s over, no one can predict how it’s likely to swing.
After all, just last month, our captain, Mary-Anne Musonda didn’t only lead us into our first ever ODI, but she also became the first woman, from this country, to make a century in the format.
She knows that her team has all our support.