High hopes as Windies Women take on the world

Saturday, November 03, 2018

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When the West Indies men's team won the ICC World Twenty20 cricket championship in 2016 the cricketing world took it in stride.

After all, the majority of the players in that team were stars in cash-rich T20 leagues around the world, not least the Indian Premier League.

It was an entirely different story for the West Indies women's team at the time. Many were surprised when Ms Stafanie Taylor and her ladies made it to the final of the women's tournament. They were stunned when the West Indies defeated Australia in the final to claim the women's title.

It will be an entirely different story when West Indies women take the field against Bangladesh on the opening day of the tournament at Providence in Guyana next Friday.

Even should the Caribbean team not start favourites, they will be expected to do very well on home turf.

Not only are the West Indian women defending champions this time around, they bring solid experience. Eleven of the 15 squad members were part of the triumphant group two years ago.

Though just 27 years old, Ms Taylor, the most valuable player in the 2016 tournament, has been playing at the highest level since she was 17.

The West Indies — hosting the ICC women's World T20 for the second time — are in Group A, along with England, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, while Australia, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, and Ireland are in Group B. First-round games are in Guyana and St Lucia, with the semi-finals and final in Antigua.

Cricket watchers will recall that back in 2016 West Indies women won the tournament on the same day as did West Indies men. This sixth edition of the Women's World T20 will be the first stand-alone, testifying to the growing popularity of women's cricket not just for live audiences but, crucially, as a television product.

Needless to say, regional organisers must bring their 'A' game to ensure the tournament is remembered for all the right reasons.

Also, from a Jamaica and Caribbean point of view, the expectation must be that this tournament will help to boost women's cricket in the region.

The sad reality is that, though Ms Taylor and her teammates have had great achievements at the highest level of the game globally, women's cricket regionally remains woefully under-resourced and underdeveloped.

In Jamaica the club league leaves much to be desired, and while there has been a determined effort to get girls playing alongside boys in primary and prep school cricket, there is no competition for girls in high school.

Our hope is that this edition of the ICC Women's World T20 tournament will help to rekindle the vibrancy inspired by the great pioneer Ms Monica Taylor, who led the way in organising and popularising women's cricket in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean in the 1960s and '70s.

We wish the best for all concerned as the West Indies take on the world in women's cricket.

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