Two sets of traditional rivals - India and Pakistan and Australia and New Zealand - have been drawn in the same groups in the women's World Twenty20, which is to be held along with the corresponding men's event next June in England.
The nine-day tournament includes West Indies and South Africa in Group A along with Australia and New Zealand and Sri Lanka and England in Group B with India and Pakistan. The semi-finals and final will be played as curtain-raisers to the men's matches - in continuation of a four-year-old practice, though this is the first time on the world stage at an ICC event - and are expected to greatly increase the viewership of women's cricket.
Sri Lanka and West Indies are the only teams out of the eight yet to play Twenty20s, though West Indies are scheduled to play a match each against Ireland and Netherlands in their Europe tour starting on Tuesday. However, most teams have limited experience in the shortest format, with New Zealand and England having played the most at eight games each.
Several boards have decided to organise domestic Twenty20 competitions in preparation for the tournament. While India have added a tournament in April, immediately following the 50-over World Cup, Pakistan are organising a Quadrangular Twenty20 championship this July. There are also plans in South Africa to introduce a new domestic competition for Twenty20, based on the Super Fours model in England.
The players welcomed the tournament, which could take the women's game to a wider audience. "Events like these will enable women's cricket to promote the game at the highest level," said Lisa Sthalekar, the Australian vice-captain. "The reason is the fact that the games will be televised. It is only a matter of time before women's cricket is competing with other women's sports." Karen Rolton, the Australian captain, said the curtain-raiser concept had been a success earlier this year when 28,000 spectators watched Australia's women play England ahead of the men's game. "The reaction was really popular and there was a one hour highlights package and the feedback was great," Rolton said.
Jhulan Goswami, the Indian vice-captain, felt winning the World Twenty20 could impact Indian cricket in a manner in which the 1983 World Cup win had. "It would be fantastic to be in the final at Lord's, especially because of what happened in 1983," Goswami said. "Indian cricket changed because of that and more people became interested."
Having two world events [World Cup and World Twenty20] in the space of a few months, Haidee Tiffen, the New Zealand captain, said would be brilliant. "I've got a couple of memories that stand out from watching and playing in Taunton," Tiffen said. "I watched England play India and saw Mithali Raj make her 214 [a world record score in Test cricket at the time] but the first time I played there was last year when we played a Twenty20 followed by a one-day game and I have fond memories because we won."
South Africa, according to their captain Cri-Zelda Brits, will aim to make it to the semi-finals. "It would great to be in the semis and play in front of a full stadium. I've played in a televised game before, but some of the girls are keen to have a chance to do that for the first time."