India target hat-trick of titles

India's women will embark on their quest for a hat-trick of Asia Cup titles when they face Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the triangular tournament which will be played at Jaipur from December 13 to 21.

India won the inaugural tournament in Sri Lanka in 2004 and successfully defended the title the following year in Pakistan. Now India launches their title defence against their main rivals Pakistan. This year's tournament will take place at Sawai Mansingh Stadium. This will be first time the Pakistan team has made an overseas appearance since the PCB took charge of women's cricket.

Mithali Raj, India's captain, is confident her team can claim their third title. She hopes the tournament will also provide them with a good opportunity to get ready for next February's quadrangular series also involving the world champions Australia, England and New Zealand in Chennai. "There is no doubt our objective is to complete a hat-trick of titles and make our country proud," she said. "Pakistan and Sri Lanka may be relatively new to this level but still we have to produce our best to achieve the goal. At the same time this tournament will provide us with a good opportunity to try out a few new girls and also different combinations so we are better prepared for next year's quadrangular series.

"I think women's cricket has really grown ever since the IWCC/ICC merger and both the BCCI and ICC are playing leading roles in creating opportunities for young girls to take up this great sport. I am sure, in days to come, we will see more multi-talented girls taking up the sport."

Her Pakistan counterpart, Urooj Mumtaz Khan, said her team is young and inexperienced but believes things are heading in the right direction. "The girls are improving day-by-day and with a comprehensive women's cricket plan in place, I am sure we will cover the long distance in a relatively short period. This event is our build-up to our next month's tour to South Africa for a five-match series and then the 2007 Women's World Cup qualifying tournament."

Pakistan women will face South Africa women at Pretoria between January 20 and 27 then the qualifying tournament for the World Cup will he held in Pakistan late next year. Eight qualifiers will vie for two slots at the 2009 World Cup in Australia.