To some, the West Indies women's cricket team arrived with a bang winning the 2016 T20 World Cup, however it has been a journey that started back in 1975. What makes their journey more amazing is that among the ICC Women's Championship countries, (the highest level of the sport) they are the team with the smallest amount of resources available to them.
Nicknamed “The Windies” the West Indian women’s Cricket team won the 2016 T20 World Cup with just three balls to spare beating three times previous winners Australia. What seemed like an insurmountable target set by the four time finalists was whittled down by a solid team effort helped along by some star quality batting. Hayley Matthews hit an amazing 66 off 45 balls with three sixes, for a stand of 120.
A chequered history with a lot of losses, draws and finishing near the bottom of the World Cup pile on more than one occasion has not seen the Windies languish with other similar countries. To the opposite, the Windies have steadily improved over the years, getting to their first T20 semi-final in 2010 and first final of a World Cup in 2013. There are several factors in this, firstly a concerted focus on the team and building a base of players that can develop has been crucial. 2003 – 2007 saw a huge influx of talent, that today is the spine of this remarkable team. You can always tell when a team has good balance and depth when you start to look for the “stars” that jump out and realise each member, not only has its merits but that so many of the team are world class with accolades such as:
- highest wicket-taker (male/female) in T20 international
- first player (male/female) to take 100 T20 international wickets
- fastest century in women’s T20 international
- first woman to score a century in a T20 international game
This list goes on, but what these examples show this is a team full of very talented players. Add to this the balance between the senior players with over 60 caps each and a good spread of ages and you have real depth there. This sort of experience helps the young players coming through and beginning to make a name for themselves. Given that several players such as Anisa Mohammed started their international careers very young (15) they have an insight for those coming through the ranks that is invaluable in helping these players.
Several Rugby 7’s international teams have looked to actively recruit multi-sport talent that has really paid them dividends, most notably Australia and New Zealand and it seems that the Windies are following suit. Players such as Hayley Matthews may be a West Indies all-rounder, but she has also represented Barbados in the javelin, as has Deandra Dottin in both track and field events. The Windies are openly encouraging this approach as they seek to pull experience from all corners to ensure that they will remain permanent members of what until recently has been the “finalists club” of Australia, New Zealand and England.
At only 18 years old, Hayley Matthews is one of the rising talents on the World stage along with her and team mate and multiple record holder, Deandra Dottin. I met up with the, to chat all things Cricket as well as winning that World Cup. What is perfectly clear in talking with them is what that extra something is in this Windies team that makes them what they are. Humility. Despite their individual success, they talk about “the team” and that it’s a team game, that it’s about all the girls not any individual. Both talk of all the things they have learned and are keen to take back home to the team because of their experiences of playing in The Big Bash and the Kia Super League all to make them all better together. They aren’t shy to say they are learning and happy to pass on their learning and this is the Windies culture.
There may only be three teams in Barbados where both players hail from and the support of women’s cricket may be in equally small measure but it’s on the way up thanks to their win in the T20 World Cup from a base of near zero. Both players talk of the work still to be done back home and the challenges they face as they explained “they didn’t think women should play cricket before but it (the World Cup win) did a lot for us in terms of exposure”. Deandra and Hayley are adamant that the domestic T20 series in Australia and England, along with the regular World Cups are key to advancing the game not only across the world but back in the Caribbean. “there is a big difference between England and the Caribbean but this all helps push women’s cricket” Hayley said explaining the impact to me. “women’s cricket has so much more respect since the win” she added.
When I ask what, it was like to chase down such a big target and to win the World Cup as underdogs, both players seemed completely overcome and lost for words as if they were suddenly back in the moment. It was such a genuine response and great to see. Deandra and Hayley managed no more than “we can’t explain it, it’s an emotion you can explain, you have to just sit back and enjoy it” all said with such happiness, smiles and maybe a touch of bewilderment still.
If these two players sum up the Windies team then this is a team that will go from strength to strength, with a bright future for them and I look forward to watching and sharing their ascendancy.