Aitken sets sights on World Cup Qualifying challenge
We caught up with Scotland women’s captain Abbi Aitken after yesterday’s news that the ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier 2017 will be hosted in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo during February 2017.
Scotland Women had a taste of warmer climes during their 2015 World T20 Qualifying campaign in Thailand, where they had their most successful global tournament ever, coming just short of qualification. However, this most recent assignment will see them tested in conditions not all that familiar to them..
The tournament will see the bottom four sides from the ICC Women’s Championship (which will be confirmed late November) along with Bangladesh, Ireland, Papua New Guinea, Thailand, Scotland and Zimbabwe go head to head for the four remaining spots in the ICC Women’s World Cup held in the England and Wales from 26 June to 23 July 2017.
“We’re very excited about the recent news of the ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier being held in Colombo, Sri Lanka” said the 25- year-old captain.
“After securing our place at this tournament by winning the European qualifiers earlier this year, the women are really looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead. Winning the European Qualifiers was our aim in the 2016 season, and we achieved that convincingly - the players thoroughly deserve this opportunity and it really is a reward for their efforts and hard work. But our efforts won’t stop here.”
Aitken is an experienced campaigner with 115 caps to her name and certainly isn’t underestimating the task ahead, however, the possibility of facing four Full Members will be another motivation for the women, “Our 18-man winter training squad consists of a mix of school pupils, students and full-time workers. As amateur cricketers, attempting to train as close to ‘full-time’ as possible, we’re often faced with difficult decisions in terms of balancing cricket with work or studies or family commitments, whatever it may be, but it’s imperative that our commitment and focus over the next few months is aimed towards our shared squad goal and this fantastic opportunity.”
The heat will be amongst one of the elements facing the squad and Aitken has challenged her troops to push their training to the limits.
“We are absolutely under no illusion at the task ahead and preparations are well underway. As a squad, we are working incredibly hard on our skills and fitness levels to ensure we are as best prepared as possible. Conditions in Sri Lanka will be like nothing we’ve ever experienced before, so ensuring we are as fit as we’ve ever been is crucial, if we want to give ourselves the best chance of a successful tournament.”
In the official press release ICC Chief Executive David Richardson expressed how the Colombo event will help the competing sides narrow the gap with the top women’s sides.
“With six teams currently battling for the three remaining automatic World Cup qualification spots through the Women’s Championship, there are going to be some big names going into the qualifying event.
“This will create a highly competitive environment in Colombo and will also provide the emerging sides with an opportunity to continue to narrow the gap with the frontrunners and with a place at the World Cup at stake anything can happen which will make for an exciting tournament.
It’s a statement that sits well with the Scotland women’s captain, “The format for the tournament is encouraging too, and there is a lot to play for. The chance to secure a place at a World Cup, the opportunity to secure ODI status for the first time in our history or even the prospect of challenging ourselves against some of the best female players in the world – what’s not to look forward to!”
The 10 sides in Colombo will be divided into two groups of five with the top three from each progressing to the Super Six stage, thus securing One-Day International (ODI) status until the next ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier.
The top four sides from the Super Six stage will qualify for the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 as well as for the next ICC Women’s Championship, while the top two sides will contest the final on 21 February.
An emphasis on the women’s game by Scotland’s national governing body is also having positive knock-on effects at senior level, as Aitken explains “The increased support from Cricket Scotland over the last couple of years and of late in reassuring and there is a belief in our future from all areas of the organisation and followers of the Scottish game. This continued support is very much appreciated and ultimately inspiring - and that’s exactly what we aim to do - head out to Sri Lanka, put Scottish Women’s cricket on the map and do Cricket Scotland proud!”