The West Indies all-rounder credited her success to the whole team, and said expectations brought out the best in her
Stafanie Taylor made her debut for West Indies in 2008, at the tender age of 17. Four years on, she has graduated to become one of the best batters in the team, someone feared by opponents and immensely respected by team-mates. "There wasn't really any inspiration for me to take to cricket,” she says. “I just started playing it casually. As I kept playing, I watched a lot of Chris Gayle, and I said to myself that I wanted to bat like him. That is what got me going.”
To be named the ICC Women's Cricketer of the Year in 2011, at the age of 20, was quite an achivement, but it is Taylor's exploits in the Twenty20 arena that have caught the imagination. With nine fifties to go along with her 38 wickets, she has become one of the pioneers of the format in the women's game.
Her consistent performances in One-Day Internationals also meant she was named the ICC Women's ODI player of the year in Colombo prior to the start of the ICC World Twenty20 2012. With two big awards already in her kitty, the weight of expectations will only increase, but the level-headed Taylor believes it is a good thing.
"It feels good when people expect you to do something," she says. "I think awards are just the icing on the cake. I know now that everytime I go out to bat, I am expected to score runs for West Indies. That helps me bring out the best in me."
Taylor however, was a little surprised at winning the top honour in ODIs. "I thought I would win the T20 Player of the year award," she chuckles. "But, then winning this award means a lot to me. It just shows all the hard work that I've put in has been recognised at the end of the day. It is a very good feeling."
Taylor shot into the limelight with a swashbuckling 90 off 49 balls against Ireland on her Twenty20I debut in 2008. Since then, the graph has only gone upwards. "With experience comes responsbility,” she says. “I just want to maintain consistency. When you score runs and win awards, people will talk about you. That can either get you carried away or inspire you to perform better, and I just want to keep improving.
"The award belongs to the team as much as it does to me. The team has been supporting me all the way. I am a much better player today, and I've to really thank my team-mates for that.”
Amid personal success, there has also been failure for the team. According to Taylor, the semifinal loss to New Zealand at the ICC World Twenty20 2010 was the hardest pill to swallow. "The home fans expected us to get to the final,” she says. “We knocked England out and had high hopes, but it just came crashing down. That was very disappointing."
While Taylor has constantly been working hard, West Indies has also seen the rise of Deandra Dottin, who at 21, has already struck more than ten percent of the sixes hit in Women's Twenty20 history. Her batting prowess has made some of her team-mates label her as one to watch out for. "We share a very good rapport, we share each other's success," says Taylor.
She is also very forthright when asked if the team relies overly on one or two individuals, and is quick to assess the root cause of the problem that has seen inconsistency plague the side. "I think the team does have talent,” she says. “I'm not sure if you can say that we've been successful only because I've scored runs or have lost because I have failed. Self-belief is important, which I feel the team is a little low on. But a couple of wins will turn things around. Skill wise, we're right up there, probably it is the temperament which is letting us down."
While West Indies is coming off a tough ODI series in England, which it lost 4-1, Taylor believes that has only increased the team's resolve to perform better. "That made us tough cookies," she says. "I think we were explosed to very tough conditions there, but our goal coming in here was to just not let that affect us because we knew conditions would be opposite out here."
Though West Indies has started well, its aim would be to go beyond the semifinal stage. She believes that an inspiring chat with a legend will help the team immensely in that regard.
"We had a pep talk with Sir Garfield Sobers, before coming here,” she says. “It was just amazing to just sit and chit-chat with him. He shared his experiences, and most importantly gave us a lot of tips on how to go about things. It was surreal."