While their male counterparts have struggled to stay competitive in international cricket, it’s the West Indies women’s team who are currently making waves on the international scene. Captain Merissa Aguilleira and her band in maroon have certainly made it known that they aren’t to be taken lightly in a world once ruled exclusively by Australia, England, and New Zealand. And they’ve done that the hard way.
Last February, the West Indies made it all the way to the Women’s World Cup final in India, a marked improvement, considering their previous best finish was fifth. In fact, that’s where they landed in their last two trips to the event, in 2005 and 2009, while their two before that — in 1993 and 1997 — saw them place sixth, then with a first round exit.
Fast forward to today, and the team’s growth is evident: at the 2013 World Cup, they beat both Australia and New Zealand for the first time in history, but were overwhelmed by the former — who have won six of the ten Women’s World Cups to date — by 114 runs in the final. They’ve also reached the semi-finals of the last two ICC Women’s T20 tournaments.
The first sign that things were changing for the team came following the 2005 Women’s World Cup. Regional teams began to place an emphasis on youth and development. Aging stars like inspirational Trinidadian skipper/wicket-keeper Stephanie Power, Tobagonian Envis Williams, and St Lucians Nadine George and Verena Felician began to make way for a younger crop.
Trinidadian Anisa Mohammed, for example, played in the 2005 Women’s World Cup as a sixteen-year-old off-spinner, and she is currently atop the West Indian bowling records at age twenty-four. Almost all the remaining members of the current Windies women’s squad began playing in 2008, and are under age twenty-four.
Former West Indies opener Sherwin Campbell, who has coached the team since then, is finally seeing the fruit of all his hard work. “I think obviously we had a good fifty-over World Cup, and gained a lot of experience through that,” he says. “The team that went to the World Cup was quite a young, inexperienced team. We gained some more exposure on [the previous] tour [of England] as well, so we have some focus.”
Campbell is sober in his understanding that improvement is still needed, particularly in the batting department, and he wants his most senior players — including inspirational Trinidadian skipper Merissa Aguilleira, consistent Stafanie Taylor and spunky Shanel Daley of Jamaica, and hard-hitting Barbadian Deandra Dottin (record-holder for fastest century and first women’s T20 International century-maker) — to lead that charge.
The next step for the players is to prove that their growth continues. An exciting tri-series tournament in October, hosted by the West Indies and featuring England and New Zealand, will provide that opportunity. That could make the learning curve steep, and the challenge stiff, for the young Windies women. But if appearances count for anything, then surely their best is yet to come.