In the last ICC Women’s World Cup, in 2013, Windies Women was a finalist. In the last ICC Women’s World Twenty20, in 2016, it won the title.
Results such as that should put it as major contenders for the 2017 ICC Women’s World Cup. Yet, the ladies from the Caribbean go into the tournament in England not immediately named among the favourites.
Its 2013 ICC Cricket World Cup run featured a string of stirring results at crucial stages after an opening loss to India Women. But since then, it has struggled in the 50-over game. In fact, among the top eight teams, Windies’ win-loss ratio in the 50-over game between the two World Cups is better than only that of Pakistan Women and Sri Lanka Women.
“We’ve been asking ourselves that question as well,” Merissa Aguilleira, the wicketkeeper and former captain, said during Windies’ 3-0 sweep at the hands of India in India last November, about the different levels of performance in the two formats. “We had a time when our 50-over game was so much better than our T20, and apparently it has just shifted around. We as players need to understand that there are different formats and we have to adjust … we have to see what is the problem and get beneath it.”
It is an odd situation that the team finds itself in. There is much to celebrate: Women’s cricket in the Caribbean has more backing than before, following the boost of the World T20 victory. For areas that need work, the title has helped amplify the calls for change. But expectations too are high, and there are stark reminders of the work to be done in 50-over cricket.
“It (the win) has done a lot for us. When you think about women’s cricket, there’s a lot of development process taking place. And this [World T20] – that some of the games were shown on television – really highlights it and gets people more interested in it. And that’s what you want. Because it’s a product that you need to sell. And as players, we need to sell it and sell it to the best of our abilities. I think that is what we did for the [World T20]. We had a good show,” said Aguilleira.
“It opened up people’s eyes,” agreed Deandra Dottin, the big-hitting all-rounder. “Some people in the Caribbean think women should not be playing cricket. So it just goes to show that we as women can actually be just as competitive as the men or more competitive. They probably think we should be home as housewives or whatever!”
Stafanie Taylor, the captain, has used the past year to stress on the need for more matches, more development programmes, a longer domestic season, and less discrepancies between islands.
In Jamaica, for instance, the structure “could use some work” – “We only get three weeks of cricket and that’s really bad, when you have a [World T20] winner.”
Trinidad & Tobago, one of the stronger centres of women’s cricket and winners of the Regional Women’s Super50 in the run up to the global tournament, has as many as 12 teams, where some other countries may have two or three, pointed out Ann Browne-John, former captain and current manager.
While the sport had benefited from better and more resources than ever before, the players needed to work to raise their level, she said. “We need to have more women playing, we need to have cricket in more countries, and we need to get more sponsors.”
With Windies, like several other women’s teams not playing Test cricket, the domestic structure doesn’t make space for days’ cricket. “Some people have been raising that fact (of introducing days’ cricket), but the fact that we only play 50-over and T20 tournaments, I think people don’t see the need to have two days,” she said. “Some people are rightly saying that the limited-overs tournaments are taking away from batting skill, batting ability of players, so everybody thinks they have to come and slog and hit the ball out of the ground. And maybe we have to go back a bit to have people play proper cricket shots. Even in T&T, we have been thinking about doing two-day games.”
In the short term, as part of its preparation, the team was one of the first to land in England to acclimatise to the conditions and get in as many practice games as possible. After all, it hasn’t played international cricket since the tour to India last year. However, it lost warm-up games to India, Pakistan, Southern Vipers and England XI.
The team, though, has a tendency to lift its game in crunch games, and will hope to gather speed as the campaign progresses. “We are still getting accustomed, to the conditions, which are not what we’re used to. Sometimes it drops, sometimes it feels like back home. We are still finding our footing,” Taylor said.
With five debutants in the side, the practice games were crucial to them getting used to the conditions, and the team would be ready for the opener, she said.
“Warm-up games are gone,” added Taylor on the eve of their Monday opener against Australia Women in Taunton. “We’re not focusing on what’s gone. Tomorrow everyone is on a level-playing field. We’re trying to focus on what we need to do in that game coming up.”
“The time we spent here was quite a blessing,” Aguilleira told Cricket West Indies. “Even though some of the matches was a little bit disappointing, I’m not worried, because every time we played a game, we learnt more and understand what we have to do. So it’s all about our process.
“Right now, a lot of people are saying we aren’t good 50-overs players. But I think our team is going to shock a lot of people. We are grooming in slowly, but surely. We know our mission.”