West Indians are always thought to be ‘entertainers’ - whether on the cricket field or in any other aspect of life. If stalwarts like Gordon Greenidge, Sir Vivian Richards, Clive Lloyd, etc. entertained us with their fabulous batting during the '70s and '80s, the likes of Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Darren Sammy and Carlos Brathwaite, among others, are currently doing so with the emergence of T20 cricket, not only on the field but also off it.
Although women's cricket in the Caribbean didn't have as much of a following as the men, West Indies reached the semi-finals of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cups in 2010 and 2012. However, it was their runners-up finish in the 50-over World Cup in 2013, that really propelled them into the spotlight.
In 2016 they went a step further, beating Australia in the World T20 final at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata to earn the tag of 'World Champions'. It was a feat that ushered in a new era in West Indies women’s cricket - the Stafanie Taylor-led side toppling the three-time champions with relative ease.
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One of the more consistent sides in the T20 World Cup circuit, West Indies reached the semifinals in the 2018 edition, too, at home. Come February 22 in Australia, Taylor will once again lead her troops in a quest to repeat their 2016 feat.
All in all, the West Indies team management has managed to keep the core of the 2018 squad together, with 11 players retaining their places.
While Deandra Dottin has returned to the side after an eight-month injury lay-off, Taylor is also coming back after suffering an injury ahead of the T20I home-series against India. The return of both the heavyweights is surely going to bolster the side. Besides Dottin and Taylor, the squad also includes the likes of Hayley Matthews, Anisa Mohammed, Shamilia Connell, and Shakera Selman, whose collective experience will play a major role in West Indies' journey.
Meanwhile, Lee-Ann Kirby will make a comeback in national colours after a 12-year hiatus. The 32-year-old allrounder has featured in just a couple of T20Is in her career and last donned the maroon jersey in 2008 against Netherlands.
Their history in the tournament suggests West Indies have what it takes to go the distance. They will only be bolstered by the recent addition of legendary Courtney Walsh to the coaching staff. The former fast bowler is set to join hands with Trinidadian stalwart Gus Logie, who has been in charge of the side since last October, following a series of changes in the Windies board.
Since falling in the semifinals of the 2018 competition, West Indies’ T20 outfit has been on a downward spiral that currently sees them winless in their last 11 fixtures (four wins in the last 15 matches in 2019). Compared to high-profile group rivals England and South Africa, West Indies have far less experience in Australian conditions — only Taylor featured in the last edition of the Women’s Big Bash League.
Meanwhile, with Australian pitches favouring the fast bowlers, the West Indies pace battery of Connell, Selman, Dottin, Chinelle Henry and young prospect Aaliyah Alleyne could prove devastating for the opposition if they fire on all cylinders. However, with the currently selected bunch not playing together as a unit over a good period of time, and only two official warm-up games - apart from the three unofficial games against Pakistan - to do homework before the mega tournament, it is going to be quite a tough task for the Caribbean girls.
"The team is in a winning mood - that hunger and fighting mood to never give up. That's what we came to Australia with and we are not leaving without the title," Dottin said in an interview with Women's CricZone.
The 2016 champions will play Australia (on February 15) and India (on February 18) respectively in the two official warm-up games. Placed in Group B, West Indies will face Thailand, Pakistan, England and South Africa. Can the maroons re-live the magic of 2016? Only time will tell.
With West Indies' batting looking a little light on both firepower and experience, opening batter Hayley Matthews would definitely be the key player for her team considering the form she has been in for the last one year. The 21-year-old has accumulated 199 runs in nine international matches in 2019 besides also scalping seven wickets. She also turned up for Loughborough Lightning in the Women’s Cricket Super League and the team management would definitely want to utilize her experience in understanding the Australian conditions.
One to Watch:
She is just three T20Is old, yet the promise young Aaliyah Alleyne showed in her maiden international series against India at home late last year has made her one of the players to watch out for in the T20 World Cup in Australia. She bowled with good pace and great control against the visitors, stepping up under pressure when many of the senior bowlers were struggling.
Having started playing the game at the age of 18, Alleyne is a late bloomer. She first started as footballer before shifting her focus into cricket. The Barbados-born 23-year-old is handy with both bat and ball, and her ability to contribute whenever needed is what West Indies would like to exploit in the mega extravaganza. Alleyne certainly has picked up the game quickly over the last few years and will be ready to learn from the experience that will surround her in the Windies dressing room.
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Despite being one of the more consistent sides in T20 World Cups, things haven’t gone well for West Indies in recent times. They have been plagued by injuries, poor form and have generally shown little fight or flair that is normally associated with their team. However, one feels that with such an unpredictable unit, a good performance is right around the corner. The return of Dottin will mean expectations are now sky high.
With just two warm-up games in hand to get the combinations right, it remains to be seen how skipper Taylor moulds her side. If everything goes according to the plan, West Indies may challenge for a top-four place.
Squad: Stafanie Taylor (c), Aaliyah Alleyne, Shemaine Campbelle, Shamilia Connell, Britney Cooper, Deandra Dottin, Afy Fletcher, Cherry-Ann Fraser, Sheneta Grimmond, Chinelle Henry, Lee-Ann Kirby, Hayley Matthews, Anisa Mohammed, Chedean Nation, Shakera Selman.
February 22: West Indies vs Thailand, in Perth (WACA)
February 26: West Indies vs Pakistan, in Canberra (Manuka Oval)
March 1: West Indies vs England, in Sydney (Showground)
March 3: West Indies vs South Africa, in Sydney (Showground)