On their tour of the United Kingdom, West Indies first face Ireland, before taking on England. Against Ireland, they will play three T20Is, with both teams having a point to prove.
The tourists will be looking to bounce back after suffering a 2-1 ODI loss to Pakistan in their last tour, while the hosts will be eager to see how their historic step forward has impacted the team. Recently, Ireland awarded semi-professional contracts to six of their players, for the first time.
For Ireland, the six players who have been awarded the contracts- skipper Laura Delany, wicket keeper Mary Waldron, all-rounders Kim Garth and Gaby Lewis, middle-order batter Shauna Kavanagh and leg-spinner Celeste Raack will all play vital roles. These are the players who have more time to train and improve, therefore should lead from the front. Delany will need to captain the side with maturity as this squad is a relatively younger group. After the 2018 T20 World Cup, where four stalwarts of Irish cricket retired, this will be Ireland’s first series and they will need to work out how to go forward without Isabel Joyce, Cecilia Joyce, Claire Shillington and Ciara Metcalfe, who all brought a wealth of experience to the side.
Garth and Raack have played in the Women’s Big Bash League, so have greater exposure, making them better equipped to face a side like the Windies. Especially since they have faced some of the players during the tournament as well. Teenage Lewis was a standout performer against New Zealand, scoring runs against them, as well as claiming scalps, proving she is a threat to all sides. Her contribution will also be imperative for Ireland to succeed.
For the Windies, Stafanie Taylor will be a crucial player. The skipper can be damaging with both bat and ball, and on her day, is unstoppable. Her side will be hoping she finds this sort of form, especially since they will be without Deandra Dottin, who was in scintillating form before suffering a shoulder injury that ruled her out of this tour. The batting unit, led by the returning Hayley Matthews will need to step up to make up for Dottin’s absence. Contributions from players such as Shemaine Campbelle and Natasha Maclean will be absolutely necessary. In the bowling department, the seamers will be more effective as the pitches in Ireland are not particularly spin-friendly during this time of the year. Shamilia Connell and Shakera Selman will be spearheading the attack, supported by Brittany Cooper, who replaces Dottin.
This tour is the start of Cricket Ireland’s initiative to arrange more fixtures for their women’s squad. After this series, they have one with Zimbabwe lined up as well, so it will serve as preparation for that. Matches against a side like West Indies will also be an opportunity for Ireland to learn, develop and improve before the global qualifiers for the T20 World Cup in 2020. If they qualify, the skills learnt will also set them up for a better T20 World Cup campaign than the previous one.
This series also gives Cricket Ireland a chance to examine how the new contracts have affected the players performance. Of course, since it’s only been a few months there probably won’t be drastic improvement, but a better performance may prove to the board that these contracts are needed by the remaining team as well. A victory would mean those contracts paid off, not just for those who got them, but for the others too, as an incentive.
For West Indies, this tour gives them a chance to acclimatise themselves before facing off against a strong English squad. The T20s will also help them in their preparation for the T20 World Cup, which is less than a year away.
Ireland: Laura Delany (c), Kim Garth, Shauna Kavanagh, Gaby Lewis, Louise Little, Sophie MacMahon, Lara Maritz, Naomi Matthews, Leah Paul, Celeste Raack, Una Raymond-Hoey, Rebecca Stokell, Mary Waldron.
West Indies: Stafanie Taylor (c), Hayley Matthews, Deandra Dottin, Afy Fletcher, Karishma Ramharack, Chedean Nation, Chinelle Henry, Kycia Knight, Kyshona Knight, Shakera Selman, Shamilia Connell, Shemaine Campbell, Natasha McLean, Stacy Ann King