Stafanie a champion, Anisa, Hayley, Deandra a champion. Stories of the world-beating West Indies Women
If you saw it you remember it, and if you didn’t you must: the moment West Indies Women defeated the all-winning Australians at the World T20 in Kolkata last year to become champions. To understand how they got there, we present four profiles by four writers on four leading players. Isabelle Westbury takes on the captain and modern master, Stafanie Taylor, with whom she shared a dressing room in the Women’s Cricket Super League last year. Vaneisa Baksh meets her co-islander Anisa Mohammed, who has broken a raft of world records with her offspin since her debut at age 15. Snehal Pradhan, a former India cricketer, tells the story of Deandra Dottin, the powerhouse game-changer with bat and ball. And Ian Bishop, the West Indian fast bowler turned commentator, and to many the voice of the 2016 World T20s, celebrates the supremely talented teenager Hayley Matthews. The four players were photographed by Mahesh Shantaram, who made a quick trip to Vijayawada in November, as West Indies transformed a 0-3 defeat in the ODIs to India into an exuberant 3-0 triumph in the T20Is.
Stafanie Taylor, Jamaica, 25
By Isabelle Westbury
They say that you could tell how many runs Viv Richards was going to score by the degree of swagger in his walk to the crease. Fast-forward a couple of decades and Stafanie Taylor, another West Indies captain, saunters out to the middle in similar fashion. It’s not just the walk that stirs memories of the great batsman. While some of the contemporary West Indian men are all big backswings and little foot movement, Taylor’s best shots are preceded by a thumping stride, followed by a blow so decisive it’s a shock she ever gets out. Just as Richards would unpick the likes of Bob Willis, Ian Botham and Derek Pringle, Taylor can do the same to the best women in the modern era – the Ellyse Perrys, Kathryn Brunts and Jhulan Goswamis. Even her leg-side flick has a touch of the Richards authority.
Only Charlotte Edwards, over ten years Taylor’s senior, has more T20I career runs, and Taylor’s average towers higher. She has been shortlisted for the ICC Women’s T20I Player of the Year every year since its inauguration, winning it once. She has twice been the ODI Player of the Year. In all, alongside her namesake Sarah Taylor, she has won more ICC awards than anyone else. In the latest edition, a Women’s Team of the Year was announced for the first time: she was captain. Comparisons to any other cricketer might therefore be misplaced, and Taylor is firm about being her own woman. When Sir Viv’s name is raised, she’s quick to issue a rebuke. “You know,” she says, “you and almost everyone that has ever interviewed me has drawn the comparison with Viv Richards. When you are growing up you hear about these legends, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually watched one of his innings. I didn’t know how he played.” She’s right of course; Taylor is no modern-day Viv. She’s Stafanie Taylor, and if you’re off your game, she’ll make sure you know it. The Taylor trademark is a capacity to accelerate from 0 to 60 in seemingly no time at all. “She has this ability to flick a switch and hit the ball wherever she wants,” says England captain Heather Knight, who has the unique perspective of having both captained Taylor, for Western Storm in the inaugural Women’s Cricket Super League, and captained against her in internationals.
Knight points to a game in the Super League. Western Storm were struggling at 17 for 3 chasing 162 against Surrey Stars. After 11 overs, Taylor was 15 off 20 balls; 28 balls later she was unbeaten on 74, with six fours and five sixes, having steered her team to an unlikely victory. Taylor’s nickname at Storm is “Gwen”, after the pop star Gwen Stefani. “She’s definitely an individual – a bit of diva in her!” says Knight. “For instance, on our golf day [with Storm], she didn’t hit a single ball. She just walked around, doing her own thing, completely ignoring the golf. She’s comfortable in her own skin, and does her own thing – she knows what she wants and does it, on and off the field.”
Taylor knows she’s an individual, but she also knows that her approach works. “I always think that if I could get Player of the Game most games, aim for that – or even aim for Player of the Series – then I know that the team is actually in a good position.” In Ricky Ponting’s 2013 autobiography, he describes a similar process of setting himself a target the night before each game – of winning Player of the Match, because if he achieved that, the likelihood was his team would win.
Selfish means for unselfish ends. “That’s exactly me!” exclaims Taylor. “Really – he said that? I need to read this book! Is it good? I’m a huge fan of Ricky Ponting.” Like Ponting, Taylor trains hard (albeit in her own manner), plays hard and applies herself – but it’s her mindset that is her key to success. After West Indies men and women won their respective World T20 cups last year, there were some comments by the media and opponents. Both teams had overcome much to achieve the feat, but the outlandish celebrations didn’t sit well with everyone. The West Indies women were as exuberant as the men – though there was nothing like Marlon Samuels in full kit, pads on and spiked feet propped up on the table in the post-match press conference. “I think some of it, when I look back – I mean it’s a West Indian thing,” Taylor says. “We like to enjoy ourselves, you know. If you look at the men, they like to go and party. So do we.” She then adds, “Others of us are more relaxed and chilled!” “I think that what pushed us more was that there were some comments.” She is referring to the build-up to the final. The night before, Australia had released a video on Twitter, a five-minute clip of players interviewing each other about the upcoming match. From an Australian perspective, just innocuous banter. Not for West Indies. They had never won a T20I against Australia; in eight attempts they had lost eight times. “When we watched the Aussies, there were some lousy comments,” says Taylor, riled even now. These were things that motivated us – not just the comments, but that they always had the upper hand over us – and knew it.”
Regardless of how mild the video may appear to the outside eye, it served as motivation for the West Indian women. “Some of the girls watched the Australia video, and some of the management team even were saying, ‘Did you see that?’ I can’t remember exactly what was said, but it riled us – as a team and as a unit. They were the team that had knocked us out [of the last World T20], so there was some revenge in it. A lot of our girls were pumped.” What happened next is history. Nine games and one win, but what a win it was. Taylor was appointed West Indies captain in late 2015, at the age of 24. In just one year she has seen the highs of the World T20 victory and the lows of successive ODI series losses in the months after. “I think we’re the strongest we’ve ever been, but we still need to do a lot more work,” she says. “We need to step up our 50-over game. Our T20 game is a lot better. We need to play more games – get more one-day games under our belts if we are to compete with the England team that beat us here [in Jamaica].” It’s a harsh comment, that her team couldn’t compete during that tour: West Indies only narrowly lost the series 2-3. It is indicative of Taylor’s mindset. With the Women’s World Cup coming up in England this summer, Taylor doesn’t want to compete, she wants to win. While she is at the height of her individual game, her biggest challenge is as captain, of converting her individual mastery into consistent team results. West Indies have some of the most talented individuals in world cricket, but getting them to channel that into collective performances is still a work in progress. The disjointed nature of the side, as a collective of nations instead of one country, adds to the difficulty. “You have to fight,” Taylor says. “It’s a lot harder.”
Despite this, Taylor refers to West Indies, both men and women, as “family”. She is effusive of the support from the male players, and talks regularly to Darren Sammy. The other day, she says, she had a house party, and Andre Russell dropped in. It’s hard to imagine this happening in any other country. “We’re really close-knit,” says Taylor. “We [Sammy and Taylor] talk – he’s always motivated me, spoken to me, advised me, ‘I believe you should do that’, ‘I believe this’ – you know, he’s always using ‘believe’. ‘Believe’ – that is so strong.” Taylor enjoys an evocative word, or phrase. Her social media feeds are laced with philosophical musings. She’s philosophical about her path into cricketing stardom too, having grown up in Spanish Town, Jamaica, a city notorious for crime and violence. While Chris Gayle could use the hefty pay packets of glamorous T20 leagues to lift him from his humble Kingston upbringing, Taylor, as a woman, hasn’t had that luxury. Her mother wanted Stafanie at home, to be a “girly-girl”. But this girl’s compulsive need for activity drew her first to football, then netball, and finally cricket, the sport she decided would give her the best opportunity to travel the world. Her Twitter bio, before a recent media-managed overhaul, said that she loves “reading books, watching movies and forensic science excites me”. Taylor giggles when asked to explain her choice of word: “excites”. “Because it does!” she laughs. Just as Grey’s Anatomy inspired a generation of doctors, and Suits one of lawyers, Taylor isn’t shy in admitting that television series like CSI, NCIS and CID had a hand in this passion. “I used to always see the pathologist, and when they got dead bodies and they really opened them. All of that – it’s just interesting. “Forensic science is my love, and I want to pursue it. Perhaps now too, while I’m still playing. Sports management perhaps first and after that I can pursue forensics.” It’s a combination of on-field focus and off-field interests that Taylor believes has got her to where she is now, a position where she has never been more comfortable in her own game. “It’s just opening my mind, seeing new things. I want to see what’s different out there.”
While the men may have had the material luxuries of being full-time professionals their whole careers, she offers an insight into why being an amateur, then a part-time pro, and still only semi-professional as she sees it, is a luxury too, of a different kind. She is an allrounder in the truest sense. Isabelle Westbury is a freelance cricket and politics writer and broadcaster. She has worked for the Telegraph, the Independent and the BBC. She is also the captain of Middlesex CCC .
The Spin Queen
Anisa Mohammed, Trinidad & Tobago, 28
By Vaneisa Baksh
“You ever see girls playing cricket? Girls don’t play cricket. Go back in class.” If she had been born into a different family, when Anisa Mohammed’s class- five teacher chastised her for playing with the boys it might have been enough to quell her passion. But the 11-year-old had a father and a mother who were zealous cricketers, and a twin sister, Alisa, who was just as ardent. She was fiercely competitive – she and Alisa always trying to outdo each other – and they were determined to outstrip the boys. There was no way her teacher at the Sangre Grande Hindu School could shut down this little Muslim girl. The scolding might seem archaic but it happened only 17 years ago, and it must have awakened Anisa’s consciousness to the different rules for females. She hadn’t really been exposed to that, just as she had not been to religious intolerance: her father is Muslim, her mother Hindu, and they cohabited with respect for each other’s beliefs. Cricket had been the bond for her parents. Imtiaz played club cricket and Leela soft-ball cricket at the club level. Growing up in the north-eastern Trinidadian town of Sangre Grande, they lived in close proximity to each other, and Leela’s house on a hill overlooked the ground where Imtiaz played. It was a way of life in the small community. “When we were growing up,” Anisa remembers, “all the young people would come outside and play football and cricket, and that’s where we got it from, playing football and cricket with the boys in the road.”
It is not an uncommon story. What is serendipitous is that, born into religions that traditionally have sharply demarcated roles for women, in a country where there is no recognisable path for a girl to make cricket her career, Anisa and Alisa were part of a family that worshipped cricket. In turn, the twins wanted to be like their parents – competitive and tough. They begged their father to let them play hardball. There was a strip of grass between houses and they would go there to practise. “He would hit the ball to us and say, ‘You want to play hardball? That is what will happen.’ He used to hit the ball hard to us and he would say, ‘One day you all will remember Daddy doing this for you.'” Anisa remembers when they first broke the hardball barrier. The twins were 13. Her cousin, Devika Singh (who played competitively too), told them there was a team that coached hardball. So the three girls went, the only three among boys. The coach, David Muffett, who would become a valuable guide afterwards, gave them a soft ball to play. They were disgusted. “Gosh, this is girl stuff. We don’t want to play girl stuff. We kept telling him, ‘Coach we want to play with the boys.'” He was reluctant but eventually agreed to try them near the end of the session. “I remember taking up the ball. I knew nothing about bowling because with a soft ball you pelt, and with a hard ball you bowl. We were looking at the boys and we always used to be looking at cricket as well, on TV. But in terms of offspin and legbreak I didn’t know what I was doing. I was just bowling and getting the ball to turn. And the coach was like, ‘You know what you’re doing?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m bowling and nobody can hit the ball.’ Then he was like, ‘All right, next session you all will play hardball.'” Around 2005, by the time Anisa finished high school, the West Indies women’s team had just begun getting paid. Women’s cricket had been under the control of the West Indies Women’s Cricket Federation, an organisation mostly run by the sheer will of the women involved. Lacking resources and support from the WICB, they struggled for funds and international matches. It was only when the ICC mandated that the bodies be merged that women’s cricket benefited from partially shared resources. They became members of the WIPA (West Indies Players’ Association), and though they have come a long way, it is still far from parity. Anisa knows the changes. At 28, she has been playing international cricket for 14 years. Just 13 when she was selected for the Trinidad and Tobago team, she was barely 15 when called up for West Indies. She had not even known there was a women’s team until a few months before, when a Trinidad and Tobago player, Shane de Silva, saw her keeping wicket in a zonal game and suggested she try out for the Under-23 team. She went to the trials as a wicketkeeper but there were five others vying for that spot, so she decided she would bowl. She was included in the team to go to St Lucia and Grenada, where she took the most wickets and had the best bowling average, and was then picked as a reserve for the West Indies team. Three days before it left for the World Cup Qualifiers in the Netherlands in 2003, one of the girls got injured. Anisa has been in the West Indies team ever since.
When she reached 100 wickets in the Women’s World T20, in March 2016, little mention was made anywhere that Anisa was the first international, male or female, to reach that milestone in T20 cricket. She has two five-wicket and four four-wicket hauls at 15.49 from 89 matches, whereas Shahid Afridi, the leading men’s T20 wicket-taker, has 97 wickets and no five-wicket hauls at 24.35 from 98 matches. Anisa did not realise until later that she was not just the first woman to reach a hundred – she was the first player. She considers it one of the standout moments of her career. “That’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” she says. “Break records and make a name for myself. First to fifty, first to a hundred, most wickets, best bowling average. I accomplished a lot more than I went out to.” She has a strong recollection of her progression. “When I made it on the TT and the WI teams, I played with a lot of older women, so I was the baby on the team. Everybody else after me was in their 20s, 30s. Stephanie Power was the captain. Even when I was away from home, I grew up under a lot of mothers. Even the coach at the time, Ann Browne-John, is now manager, so I am still under her. Up to now I say Ann is my mother in cricket.” Browne-John first saw Anisa when she turned up for those Under-23 trials, and it was her batting that caught everyone’s eye. “This little girl played a perfect cover drive to the boundary that left everyone speechless,” she remembers. “Then we saw her bowl.” Anisa has a quirky bowling action: she jumps in the air before she starts her run-up. “I’ve never seen anybody else do that,” says Browne-John. She tells the story of a series again Pakistan where Anisa took a couple of five-wicket hauls and someone later spotted the Pakistan coach training the girls with a jump at the start of their run. After a recent bowling camp, Anisa’s action had changed. She wasn’t jumping on the advice of one of her coaches. But it affected her bowling, and she was not getting wickets. It didn’t take long for her to jump-start her action after that. According to Browne-John it has worked. Having benefited from continuous mentorship, Anisa sees a future as a coach and has already got a Level 1 certificate. “I have a lot to pass on to the younger generation,” she says. “We have a lot of coaches with certificates and no experience, and I think I have both.”
As the vice-captain and the most senior player in the side, she finds that her young team-mates are becoming more aware of what it means to represent a people. “That was what helped us win the World T20,” she says. “A lot of people were saying we had a change in coaching, a change in captaincy and all of that. I disagree. I think it is because of the team itself. “We had made it into the semi-finals three times before and we were just tired of reaching there and losing and being on a plane going back home, crying. A lot of comments were made that the West Indies women would reach the semis and go home. We didn’t have anything to lose. We played fearless cricket. For me it meant a lot because I have been playing for the last 14 years. I’ve played in at least three or four 50-over World Cups, five T20 World Cups, and to finally win one, it wasn’t just going to a World Cup again. It was, ‘Wow, you are on the stage now. You did it.'” She knows she has a lot of cricket to go – her competitive nature will not allow otherwise – but she is beginning to think of broadening her world. She is about halfway done building her own home, and wants to set up a charity foundation in 2017. While her twin Alisa, who has represented Trinidad and Tobago, may choose to end her competitive career after her recent marriage, Anisa has no interest in going down that path. The travel alone has made a steady relationship difficult. “I think I am still young and doing what I enjoy. For me representing my country and the West Indies is more joy than being in a relationship. That is my relationship.” As a girl she studied for a few years at SWAHA, a Satanist organisation following orthodox Hindu traditions, and she is a Muslim who fasts for Ramadan and observes the rituals. “A lot of people when they see me, say they feel good to see a Muslim representing the country,” she says. It is more than that. It means a lot to West Indians to see their women shine, more so because of the fearless spirit with which they play. And for Browne-John, what stands out about Anisa is “her determination, her hard work and her confidence. Every time she takes the ball, she is confident.” Perhaps this is what she has passed on to the women’s team, and that would be a fine legacy indeed.
Vaneisa Baksh is a writer based in Trinidad and the editor of UWI Today
Deandra Dottin, Barbados, 25
By Snehal Pradhan
India, 2013. West Indies became only the second team outside of Australia, England and New Zealand to make the final of a Women’s World Cup. There, they were handed a massive defeat by Australia, with a one-legged Ellyse Perry contributing with bat and ball. On either side of that loss were three semi-final defeats in World T20s: two of those were to Australia.
India, 2016. The two sides meet again in the final of the World T20. Batting first, Australia race away to 147 for 3 in 19 overs, with a well-set Perry (28 off 19) on strike. Dottin bowls the final over. Ball one: Yorker on leg stump, through the legs of Perry to the keeper. Dot ball. Ball two: Low full toss, hit straight back to the bowler. Another dot. Ball three: Expecting the full ball, Perry tries the ramp. Dottin goes short of length outside off, Perry misses. Three dot balls. Ball four: Full and straight, Perry slogs, misses and is out lbw. Four dot balls. One wicket. Ball five: Full and straight again, Erin Osborne hits to midwicket and is run out. Five dot balls and two wickets. Ball six: Full and straight, Alex Blackwell edges to midwicket and takes a single. On one of the better batting wickets of the tournament, it was by far its best bowling over. We meet in the lobby of her hotel in Sydney. My first impression is all tattooed skin and dreadlocked hair. Also, a walk that has a bit of shoulder in it, a hint of a swagger, like her idol, Sir Viv. But that is where the contradictions start. A soft, low voice to go with those strong shoulders. An unassuming manner, with no hint of swagger in her conversation. A shy, almost self-conscious smile, as her team-mates walking through the lobby catch her eye. She has been on the circuit so long, it is easy to forget that she is just 25. It was a day after her first game in the second edition of the Women’s Big Bash League, for her new team, Brisbane Heat. She had turned the game on its head; her belligerent 60 not out off 44 balls helped Heat beat the fancied Sydney Sixers. Forty-two off those runs came in boundaries, against an attack that featured Perry and Marizanne Kapp, the South African. Some of the shots were simple, almost effortless strikes. Clear front leg. Pick length. Hit straight in the V. Others were delicate, adroit innovations, like cunning reverse paddles towards a vacant third man. This is the way Dottin bats now. It was not always thus. But more on that later. “I was never really a cricket fan.” Her opening line stumps me. Here sits the holder of the record, by some way, for the fastest hundred in women’s T20Is. The Australia captain, Meg Lanning, who has the next fastest, needed 15 balls more than Dottin’s 38.
“If you didn’t at de christening, you shouldn’t be at de wedding,” goes a Bajan proverb. “Don’t get into something if you don’t know how it started.” So let’s go to the start of Deandra Dottin’s story. She spent most of her youth in Rock Hall, St Andrew. “It’s kinda like a Christian home,” she says. Her mother, brothers, grandparents and uncles all live there. Her father passed away when she was 12 (“Never really knew him anyway”), and Dottin was raised mostly by her mother, Melva. Glance through Dottin’s Twitter handle, and influences of her Christian upbringing are obvious: retweets of quotes from the Bible, words like “blessed” and “humble”. They sit in contrast to her Twitter name, “WoR£d B¤$$”, almost cleansing it of arrogance but not quite. She chuckles at the reference to the name, and to Chris Gayle, whose Twitter feed is less chaste. “He’s moved on to Universe Boss now.” Track and field was Dottin’s primary sport. Cricket was a pastime. “I used to play cricket just for fun, with my brothers and all the guys in the neighbourhood,” she remembers. It is still how she spends days off at home, as well as at the beach and partying. Initially a sprinter, at 13 she won her first medal at the CARIFTA Games (Caribbean Free Trade Association Games) in an age-group event, silver in the javelin throw. She would claim another silver and seven golds over the next two years in javelin, discus and shot-put. During one of her recreational games of cricket, she was spotted by Pamela Lavine, who played for West Indies. Lavine’s invitation to play cricket for Barbados did not go down well with Deandra’s mother, Melva. “She never wanted me to go; don’t really know why, I never questioned it. But I was determined to try something new. Eventually, I went.” Dottin began playing formal cricket at 14, side by side with her field events. With a strong fitness base from athletics training, she quickly rose through the then thin West Indian ranks, and days after her 17th birthday, made her international debut. In her fourth ODI came her first half-century. Success in two sports came with a tough choice. “I tried to balance it,” she says, “but it came to a point where it was getting tough. Once I had CARIFTA Games, and the next day after coming back I had to travel for a cricket tournament, so they started to clash.” At 13, Dottin won her first medal at the CARIFTA Games in an age-group event, silver in the javelin throw. She would claim seven golds over the next two years.
Dottin chose cricket, despite the lack of proper financial rewards, and the yawning pay gap between the men and the women, something she would be vocal about later in her career. “Cricket helps me see places, other people, other cultures, how different they are.” When I point out that success in track and field would have helped her see the world too, she adds with a grin: “I probably started to grow a love for the game.” I first heard of Deandra Dottin when she scored that fastest century, in May 2010. In 2011, West Indies toured India for a five-ODI and three-T20I series. It was also the series in which I made a comeback into the Indian team. We had last played West Indies in the 2009 Women’s ODI World Cup. It was a fairly one-sided affair, with India winning by eight wickets, and that game coloured our impressions of how the series would go. The first ODI disabused us of those notions, as they beat us hands down in Mumbai. They had us 2-1 down before a century from Mithali Raj helped us recover and then claim the series. Dottin had a wretched time, with a top score of 21 across the ODI and T20Is. At the time I remember thinking that she could take the odd game away from the opposition but was too inconsistent to pose a serious threat in a long series. Her stats at the time tell us the same thing: either side of that sensational hundred, she had T20I scores of 4, 6, 0, 0 and 1. She seemed to operate by one mantra: see ball, hit ball. But boy, could she hit it. Even in this age of fitter, stronger players – where sixes often clear the ground, not just the boundary – she is still one of the most powerful strikers of the cricket ball. Today, though, Dottin is more aware of the value she brings by batting longer. “Been working hard on my game like that,” she says. “It’s been more effort mentally, thinking about my game and trying to not forget who I really am and what I can really do.” In 71 ODIs, from her debut in 2008 till 2013, Dottin averaged a respectable 25.45 with the bat, with 11 fifties and five not-outs. In 27 matches since 2014, her average is 34.08, with six fifties and four not-outs. The numbers give us an idea of her increased dependability. “Consistency is coming for the last two years. It’s not where I want it to be, but amma gonna get it to where I need it to be.” The last line carries a strong Bajan accent but no hint of speculation.
And then there is her bowling. She is deceptively quick, with a whippy open-chested action that generates mean inswing. Initially used by West Indies as a surprise option in short, sharp spells, she now opens the bowling regularly, especially in T20s. “She has both swing and pace, which is rare,” says Dottin’s fellow international at Brisbane Heat, Smriti Mandhana. “If she wanted to, she could become one of the top five bowlers in the world.” Mandhana, the only Indian in the ICC Women’s Team of the Year 2016, was dismissed three times in six games by Dottin when West Indies toured India in November. It is no wonder that she adds cheekily, “I prefer having Deandra as a team-mate.” Dottin has now become something of a last-over specialist in T20s. “I like pressure,” she says. Most champion athletes do. “I always pull through for the team.” There’s that certainty again. Her mantra is straight out of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: “Don’t panic. It always works.” Her most famous last over, relived above, came in West Indies’ most famous win. Since the inception of the Women’s World Cup in 1973 (two years before the men’s), only Australia, England and (once) New Zealand had ever won it, and the first four Women’s World T20s were also taken by either Australia or England. Thanks to Dottin’s final-over heroics in Kolkata, a potential score of 160 was curtailed to 148. It was still the highest score in a Women’s World T20 final, but, recalls Dottin, “we said they were 20 runs short”. Look closely at the videos of that final, and you might see a few West Indies players wearing matching armbands. Later that evening, they can be seen wearing matching black T-shirts. Both had the words “Moving in Faith” on them. “It was a motto for us, before I was even captain,” says Stafanie Taylor, the West Indies captain. “Our devotion, it’s one of the things that keeps us going as a team as well.” Dottin elaborates on this. “Before games, we would have something called devotion, praying, trying to keep God as part of playing cricket.”
West Indies had three times been knocked out in the semis. “When we were in the final, we were like, ‘This is it. This is where we deserve to be.'” Dottin was at the non-striker’s end when the winning runs were scored, seeing her team through in a tense finish as West Indies registered their highest chase in T20Is. They deposed a side with vastly more experience, the best off-field support, and three consecutive World T20 titles. The world order was changing, and Dottin was a part of that. Tattoos run down the length of her left arm, and some adorn her right. None of them is meaningless. There is the koi fish, a sign of good luck. There is a cross. A “D” woven into the patterns of ink. Her playing number, 5. Unseen, though, is another that says: “Only God can judge me.” It tells us more about her than all of the others put together. Daughter of a Christian home, in an island where districts are called parishes. Owner of immense self-belief and a bit of swagger, all tempered by humility and an obeisance to a higher power. She may be a self-proclaimed World Boss, but she does not forget to acknowledge the boss upstairs. “At the end of the day, without Him, you wouldn’t have the strength to do what you do.” Snehal Pradhan is a former India and Maharashtra opening bowler, and now a freelance journalist.
Hayley Matthews, Barbados, 18
By Ian Bishop
I vividly remember waiting in the commentary box with a mix of curiosity and anticipation at the famous Eden Gardens on the third of April last year. The West Indies opening pair made their way out to the middle in the final of the Women’s World T20. The target before them was 149 and their opponents were Australia, the defending champions and one of the powerhouses of the women’s game. I remember thinking to myself, “West Indies are going to have to play above themselves here to win this.”
The style and panache with which the West Indian women knocked off those runs to win the trophy was breathtaking. What made it even more unforgettable was that it wasn’t the vastly experienced and skilful Stafanie Taylor, nor the hugely gifted and destructive Deandra Dottin who led the dominance. It was the youthful Hayley Matthews, just 18 years old. Sixty-six aesthetically pleasing runs, from just 45 deliveries, flowed off her bat with an unfussed ease and comfort. This in her – and her team’s – first World T20 final. That it came against the three-time champions made it seem surreal. Two thousand and sixteen will be remembered as a year of unprecedented success for West Indies cricket. The joy of winning three world titles was hugely fulfilling for a Caribbean public starved of silverware. Yes, there was the Champions Trophy in 2004, and the sensational World T20 win by Darren Sammy’s team in 2012. But the 2016 wins in the Under-19 World Cup and the women’s and men’s World T20s were a reminder of the talent this region can still unearth. In the words of Jimmy Adams, now the WICB’s director of cricket, “There is still gold in the ground.” For me the women’s victory had a special significance.
I have long felt that over the last six years the women’s component has been making the most significant strides as an international cricket team in the Caribbean. Since its administration was assimilated under the management of the WICB some years ago, it has ascended to new levels. The women’s team had qualified for three semi-finals and one final, and pushed some of the more established nations in white-ball cricket without ever being able to achieve that mountaintop experience… until 2016 that is. Matthews potentially represents the bold future of batting for both West Indies and the women’s game. She has the aggression to take the game forward, but also blends it with some of the smoothness of her captain, Taylor. Her power comes easily. She has that six-hitting ability, but hits them mostly in a straight arc that minimises risk and makes it easy on the eye. And she has admirable confidence in herself. Contrary to some versions of how that trophy-winning chase went, Matthews recalls that, “We [Taylor and her] had started pretty slowly, scoring only nine off three overs. I decided in my head that it’s do or die now, and we’ve either got to go or we can’t get this in from here. As Taylor saw me going pretty well, she decided to sit back and play the supporting role, which is what the team needed.”
West Indies, in recent times, have exposed a lot of their female cricketers early in their development. Taylor, Dottin, Shemaine Campbelle and Anisa Mohammed all started their international careers as teenagers. “Not many people get to be at a World Cup or even watch,” says Matthews, “and at 18 years old I get to win it and be Player of the Match – it means so much!” Matthews declares great affection for both her parents, but it was her father, Mike, to whom she is “really, really close”, and he was responsible for getting her involved in the game. Mike was a No. 4 batsman and offspinner for Pickwick Cricket Club, one of the premier clubs in Barbados, and which until recently could boast of the legendary Kensington Oval as its home ground. Hayley fondly recalls her earliest memories of being taken there along with her older brother Wayne, both of them running around the Oval and onto the field at water breaks. At home in the yard, Mike would throw the ball to Wayne – and then Hayley would come out and ask to hit some balls and throw some too. As with most sportspersons, school played an important role in those formative years. Matthews attended People’s Cathedral Primary, next door to where she lived. She remembers at the age of eight or nine watching the boys’ team play, and becoming so enamoured that she strolled up to the coach and asked if she could play with them. Fortunately she was welcomed with open arms. As if the gods had designed it, her cricketing education continued at Harrison’s College, which counts among its alumni Sir Pelham “Plum” Warner and Sir Clyde Walcott, as well as Ian Bradshaw and David Holford. There she was taken into the school’s previously all-male U-13 team, for whom she opened the batting and immediately assisted in winning a tournament. She moved on to captaining them in her final year in that age group. Matthews recommends that talented female cricketers play with male teams in their initial years. She feels the experience has helped develop her skill against fast bowling, and improved her athleticism in the field. It is a testament to her precociousness that she has already played in the Men’s First Division in Barbados – for her dad’s club, Pickwick – and she is proud of the 47 she posted in that match, batting in partnership with current West Indies batsman Shai Hope.
Matthews may well go on to emulate England’s Sarah Taylor, who in 2015 created history by becoming the first female cricketer to play grade cricket in Australia. The time may not be too far away for that type of evolution. The women’s game is growing exponentially: ICC tournaments are offering great exposure, the Women’s Big Bash League in Australia is pushing its development, a professional T20 league has opened up in England, and the West Indies women are now centrally contracted to the WICB. The last is an initiative Matthews lauds, as it allows her and her team-mates to focus on improving their game without having to concurrently seek a living elsewhere. What does the future hold? Matthews says she wants to “develop consistency and become one of the best in the world”. For that she has plenty of time on her side. But many athletes have that same goal. The real questions are: how do they achieve that, and are they willing to do what it takes? Hayley thinks her dad is still the best person to guide her along that path. He has enough knowledge of the sport and is still an active cricketer, playing over-40s matches on the club circuit.
If that is not enough, Matthews can call on a few members of the senior men’s team for advice. She has used Carlos Brathwaite’s brand of cricket equipment so far. If she keeps growing in the game as expected, the time may come that she graduates to one of the globally established brands. But that will never substitute for the peripheral benefits she derives from having have a close association with Brathwaite, where she can always call on him for advice. He keeps an eye on her performances as well, as good business entities do. Many ambitions remain, as one would expect of an 18-year-old with the world at her feet. Though she has represented Barbados at the CARIFTA level in javelin – an event she has “always liked and could have seen herself excelling at too” – for the moment that is a closed chapter. What she would dearly like is to play Test cricket. That is perhaps a distant reality: West Indies have only played 12 in their history, the last of them in 2004. Finishing schooling is another priority, since good health and fitness are promised to no man, or woman. For now, the constant travelling, playing and interacting with a host of varying characters and teams is offering personal growth and an ever-expanding world view. The future is bright.
Ian Bishop, a former fast bowler, played 43 Test and 84 ODIs for West Indies