Australia 'not scared' to talk about T20 World Cup expectation - Alyssa Healy
All roads lead to the MCG for the Australia Women's team this season - or at least that's the plan. The T20 World Cup final on March 8 is being billed as the chance to set a new world record for a women's sporting event with the hope the ground can be sold out.
A big part of achieving that will probably involve Australia reaching the final as they aim to defend the title they won in West Indies last year. Given their recent dominance - winning 19 of their last 21 T20Is - it would be a brave person to bet against them achieving that, but it does bring a weight of expectation.
However, that is something the team is already embracing as they map out their season which begins against Sri Lanka at the weekend.
"There will be a lot of pressure and expectation on us being there in that final, there's a lot of talk about breaking world records and the crowds we could get but I think we are a big part of that and actually being in that final will make that happen," Alyssa Healy told ESPNcricinfo. "For us it's about not being scared to talk about it, not being scared to talk about the pressure and expectation we will be put under to be there.
"I think everyone in the squad is very realistic that it's there and we aren't afraid of that either, making sure we are doing the right things on and off the field, playing some good cricket will enable us to go into that World Cup and put in a dominant performance. Talking about it with one and other will be crucial and we've already started that, playing the cricket is just part of that."
Allrounder Ashleigh Gardner said: "There's been a lot of talk about wanting to sell out the MCG, having 90,000 people there would be a record, but we have to focus on things before that. We have to get to the final, we have another tough pool, India first who beat us last year, but we back ourselves that we can get to that final."
This confidence is well-placed given the way they have beaten England and West Indies convincingly since their title success a year ago, but Australia are aware that the tournament play can bring a different dynamic to bilateral contests, especially in the knockout rounds with Healy picking out India as the "real threat".
"I think it will be a very exciting World Cup. We saw in the West Indies that it was right open a lot of the way," Healy said. "England and India were right up there, West Indies in the [semi] finals as well. It will be a tough one, but I think India are probably the favourites going into it. Obviously us being at home is pretty big for us but I think India are a really talented side. They came out here a couple of years ago and beat us in our own back yard so they'll be a real threat and England, depending on their selectors, they'll be a real chance as well."
Australia's season gets underway on Sunday with the first of three T20Is against Sri Lanka in Sydney, followed by a three-match ODI series in Brisbane. The focus then shifts to the first standalone WBBL, which begins in mid-October, before a return to international cricket in late January, with a T20I tri-series involving India and England as the side's final preparation for the World Cup.