The best ICC Women’s World Twenty20 yet
A new winner, good crowds in big games, and many thrilling contests ensured that the tournament was a rousing success
07 April 2016 21:32
The ICC Women’s World Twenty20 2016 was a holistic tournament in every sense, as teams were tested in conditions as varied as Dharamsala, New Delhi, Mohali, Mumbai, Nagpur, Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata.
Considering that the next Women’s World T20 will not run alongside the men’s event, it was important for this edition to pass the independent test. It did exactly that through a new winner, crowds in big games, and many thrilling contests which ensured that at least the semi-finalists from one group remained undecided till the last league game.
Perhaps in a dream scenario for the success of the tournament and a big home crowd at the Women’s part of the final, India would have qualified for the final at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Sunday (April 3), but it was not to be. So much had been spoken about Mithali Raj’s India after it started the year with a historic Twenty20 International series win in Australia that there was almost a sense of inevitability about its place in the knockouts. However, an inability to seize key moments in three close defeats in the league stages combined with the pressure of playing in front of big crowds for the first time prevented the home side from having a fairytale ride.
It fell upon West Indies to prove the pre-tournament prediction of Clare Connor, the ICC Women’s committee chairman and former England captain, that the fifth edition of the competition would throw up a “surprise winner” correct. The side's maiden title win, by eight wickets over the treble defending champion ended Australia’s three-edition hegemony.
West Indies’ planning started soon after its third consecutive semi-final loss in 2014 in Bangladesh. Immediately after that defeat to Australia, Merissa Aguilleira, the captain then, had spoken about the need to “have faith to go to the next level.” While Aguilleira, Stafanie Taylor -- who took over the captaincy late last year in order to “bring new energy” according to Clive Lloyd, the chairman of selectors -- Anisa Mohammed and Deandra Dottin formed the base with their experience, Afy Fletcher and Britney Cooper were recalled after more than six years, and Hayley Matthews and Shamilia Connell were chosen for the first time.
Matthews’s debut at the age of 16 in September 2014 sent out a loud message that the team management was willing to back youngsters for long-term solutions. It also helped that Matthews and a few others mingled with the best players from other countries at the inaugural Women’s Big Bash League, and incorporated the lessons learnt there into their games.
Matthews and Cooper weren’t consistent in the first half of the tournament, but they fed off the meaningful contributions from seniors, especially Taylor and Dottin. Taylor carried the team’s batting singlehandedly during the league stages, while Dottin bowled the 20th over with precision in each game. She defended nine runs against India in a must-win first round match after playing a crucial knock, and gave away just one in the final against Australia, shifting the momentum in the team’s favour. Even the captaincy of Taylor was quite sharp, as she used her spinners cannily and stressed on strike-rotation in order to make up for the lack of boundaries.
Cooper rose to make a 48-ball 61 against New Zealand in the semifinal to set up a six-run win, and Matthews gave a push to her growing reputation with an attractive 45-ball 66 against Australia – the highest individual score by a batter across five finals. That she had Taylor for company during an opening stand of 120 made the chase of 149 a relatively easy affair.
While Matthews’s knock earned her rave reviews, what excited the batter was the opportunity to play in front of a healthy crowd throughout the tournament. “I haven’t played in a World Cup before. Crowds were good. It was good to see so much support playing before the men’s (final) with the crowd coming in towards the end,” said Matthews. “Hoping that women’s cricket improves as the years go by and we see a lot more of it.”
West Indies winning the title was another example of the closing gaps between rest of the teams and Australia in women’s cricket, and Meg Lanning, the Southern Stars skipper, felt it was a good thing for the game. “Each tournament is building on the last one, which is great. We have seen the build up to the World Twenty20 with the WBBL, and the Super League (being announced) in England. There’s lots happening with women’s cricket. It’s building all the time. The skill levels are really increasing as well,” Lanning said. “Everyone’s sort of catching up and going past us, and we need to keep improving to make sure we stay on top. The West Indies are an example of that. Throughout the whole tournament, the standard has been really good. There’s no easy games in women’s cricket any more. If you are not 100 percent, you are not going to win. We have found that out in this tournament.”
Meanwhile, Sana Mir’s Pakistan won many hearts by the manner in which its spinners scripted famous back-to-back wins against India and Bangladesh, sending out a message beyond the cricket field through social media, South Africa had Sunne Luus, the only bowler to take five wickets in an innings, Ireland symbolised inclusivity, featuring some of the youngest and the oldest players in the tournament, Chamari Atapattu’s Sri Lanka sparkled in patches even after losing its designated skipper to a hamstring injury, Jahanara Alam gave a good name to the Bangladesh team, and even though England fumbled its way to the semi-final, Charlotte Edwards once again belied her age by becoming the first batter to cross the 200-run mark in the competition. But, no team bossed the league stages like New Zealand, who stumbled in the knockouts yet again. While Suzie Bates and Sophie Devine enhanced their reputation as entertainers, young Leigh Kasperek’s effective offspin put her on the top of the bowling charts and made her a player to watch out for in the future.
“We do have girls who are interested, it’s just that we don’t have anyone to push them and say okay these girls are interested so we need to get them out to play,” said Taylor, when asked about ways to popularise the sport among girls. The 2016 Women’s World T20 has definitely been a success and the results will be visible in a few years from now. But, the challenge now is to sustain the momentum, push the bar even further and secure more converts.
Women's World T20 2016 Numbers:
Highest total: 177 for 3 by New Zealand v Ireland in Mohali
Most runs: Stafanie Taylor (West Indies) – 246 runs in 6 matches
Highest score: 82 by Suzie Bates for New Zealand v Ireland in Mohali
Most wickets: Leigh Kasperek (New Zealand) – 9 in 5 matches at 10.11
Best bowling figures: Sunne Luus – 5/8 for South Africa v Ireland in Chennai
Most dismissals (wicketkeeper): Rachel Priest (New Zealand) – 5 in 5 matches
Most catches: Nahida Akter (Bangladesh) – 4 in 3 matches
Highest partnership: 120 for the first wicket for West Indies v Australia in Kolkata