BURNING QUESTIONS AHEAD OF TWENTY20 WORLD CUP OPENER
* CAN ALYSSA HEALY RETURN TO FORM?
Healy has become the most talked about player in the lead up to the tournament opener against India but for all the wrong reasons. After dominating the 2018 World Cup as she plundered runs at will in Australia's success, Healy has hit just 24 in six innings this year. The opener insists she is not out of form but just out of runs, and won't change her aggressive mindset for the tournament.
* WILL THE PRESSURE TELL FOR AUSTRALIA AT HOME?
It's nothing new for Australia to enter global tournaments with big expectations and as favourites, but this is to the next level. Goals of a sold-out MCG for the final on March 8 have been set for more than two years, and Australia have long known they need to be there for that to be a reality. Players have been told to embrace the occasion, but Friday night will be the best indication of how they handle it.
* CAN AUSTRALIA STOP HARMANPREET KAUR?
Kaur knows how to turn it on against Australia in the big games. She destroyed them in the 2017 one-day World Cup semi-final with 171 from 115 balls to power India to victory, and also hit 43 off 27 in India's group match win over Australia in the last Twenty20 World Cup. She can win a match on her own but the hosts kept her quiet in the recent tri-series and need to do so again in Sydney.
* HOW DO AUSTRALIA REPLACE TAYLA VLAEMINCK?
As captain Meg Lanning put it on Thursday, they simply can't. Vlaeminck's foot injury is a massive blow to the hosts, robbing them of their quickest bowler for the World Cup on tournament eve. Her presence would have been crucial on the faster, bouncier wickets, but more of an onus will now fall on pace-bowling allrounders Nicola Carey, Annabel Sutherland and Delissa Kimmince.
* HOW DANGEROUS WILL SHAFALI VERMA BE?
The 16-year-old opener has shown no fear in the early stages of her career, already blunting 124 off 78 balls against Australia A this summer and then 49 from 28 against the top squad earlier this month. The teenager took down Ellyse Perry in that innings with three boundaries, but the World Cup will be her biggest test. Australia could also have a secret weapon waiting, with spinner Molly Strano called into the squad after knocking over Verma five times in seven games this summer.
Australian Associated Press