By Shashank Kishore in Sylhet
Merissa Aguilleira says West Indies Women a confident unit that backs itself to beat any side
West Indies isn't the only one to have made rapid strides. Sri Lanka Women, who took small steps of its own in 2010, has quickly established a footing in the game. Shashikala Siriwardene, the captain, went to the extent of pronouncing its World Cup wins over England Women and India Women last year as the take-off point for the sport in the country.
Sri Lanka is on an upswing, and after a win against India in its opening match of the ICC Women’s World Twenty20 2014, it should be in a good frame of mind before taking on the Merissa Aguilleira-led West Indies team in a Group B at the Sylhet Divisional Stadium on Friday (March 28).
Sri Lanka doesn't have an aura around itself, a fact Siriwardene acknowledged readily. "We don't have too many impact players like some of the other teams," she said. "What we do have is a team that is willing to work hard and play as a unit with limited resources. That is what has helped us gel together."
Siriwardene does have the services of Eshani Kaushalya however. Kaushalya's cameo gave the innings a lift towards the end against India, and on the field, her catch off Harmanpreet Kaur under pressure with the boundary literally inches away, proved to be the clincher. If needed, she can be called upon to chip in with a few overs too.
The bowlers have the skills to make scoring difficult for the opposition on their day. Udeshika Prabodhani reaped the rewards of accuracy on a batting-friendly surface by picking up two wickets and conceding just nine runs off her four overs against India, while Inoka Ranaweera, the left-arm spinner, put the brakes on the scoring in the middle.
But whether that alone will be enough against a line-up not short on firepower will be debatable, for West Indies has two of the fiercest hitters in the women's game. Deandra Dottin bailed the team out of trouble with a vital knock that helped put up a respectable total against Bangladesh Women, while Stafanie Taylor's six-hitting prowess has been well documented.
Taylor sat out of the game against Bangladesh after a bruise on her knee sustained during the first match against England Women, and will be expected to open the innings, which means that Kyshona Knight, who opened with her sister Kycia, will drop down to No. 3. In Shaquana Quintyne, the team has also discovered an able offspinner to complement Anisa Mohammed.
Given the talent in the side, West Indies backs itself to win against any opposition. "We have the talent and belief that we can beat anyone," said Aguilleira. "I think what we try and do is not think too much about a team or opponent. Being relaxed helps, we let each player thinks for themselves. Sometimes it comes off, other times it doesn't, but as a team we’re a confident unit."
West Indies has managed to identify a core group of players to build the team around in quick time, and part of the credit for that should go to Sherwin Campbell, the head coach.
Although West Indies will start as the favourite, Sri Lanka needs to look no further than the previous edition, where it won by five runs, for inspiration. At stake for West Indies is a berth in the semifinal, and it will not want to leave it till too late.
Sri Lanka: Shashikala Siriwardene (capt), Chamari Atapattu, Eshani Kaushalya, Deepika Rasangika, Sripali Weerakkody, Chandima Gunaratne, Chamari Polgampola, Rebeka Vandort (wk), Oshadi Ranasinghe, Hasini Perera, Yashoda Mendis, Maduri Samudikka,Udeshika Prabodhini, Nilakshi Silva.
West Indies: Merissa Aguilleira (capt, wk), Shemaine Campbelle, Deandra Dottin, Chinelle Henry, Kycia Knight, Kyshona Knight, Stafanie Taylor, Stacy-Ann King, Shanel Daley, Natasha McLean, Anisa Mohammed, Subrine Munroe, Shakera Selman, Tremayne Smartt, Shaquana Quintyne.