Can hosts West Indies hold on to their crown?

Stafanie Taylor and Hayley Matthews celebrate West Indies' victory AFP
Stafanie Taylor and Hayley Matthews celebrate West Indies’ victory AFP

Squad list

Stafanie Taylor (capt), Merissa Aguilleira, Shemaine Campbelle, Shamilia Connell, Britney Cooper, Deandra Dottin, Afy Fletcher, Sheneta Grimmond, Chinelle Henry, Kycia Knight, Hayley Matthews, Natasha Mclean, Anisa Mohammed, Chedean Nation, Shakera Selman

World T20 pedigree

That old saying, “it is a double-edged sword”, inevitably springs to mind as the reigning Women’s World T20 champions West Indies hope to defend their crown at home.

However, if recent history across women and men’s ICC events is considered – albeit in 50-over cricket – playing at home has never been more advantageous. From a time when players would wither under the weight of expectations, we’ve entered a period of unprecedented home dominance, with raucous crowds playing 12th man. Prime examples are India in 2011, Australia in 2015 and England’s women in 2017.

If that isn’t a source of encouragement for the hosts, then their own T20I record at home at least should be: West Indies have lost just one T20I series at home – outside ICC events – which was also decided by a one-over eliminator after a tie. Despite playing very few T20I matches, to have sustained their run at home since 2009 is a remarkable feat.

In that period, West Indies’ women have lost a T20I bilateral series at home only to New Zealand, who have historically been their bugbear. But they can contemplate crossing that bridge only if they make the knockouts from a group that also features England, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Bangladesh.

Recent T20I form

The scars from a four-zip walloping at the hands of New Zealand in New Zealand in March were just about fading with successive wins against South Africa at home, but a loss off the penultimate ball of the final T20I meant that they had to settle for a drawn series in September-October. With only eight completed matches under their belt this year, lack of game time, especially with the cancellation of the bilateral series against India which would have preceded their World T20 campaign, could hurt them. They did play a rain-curtailed warm-up match against India, which they lost.

The captain and coach

Sandwiched between Suzie Bates of New Zealand and Meg Lanning of Australia, Stafanie Taylor is placed second on the ranking for T20I batsmen and has been a regular feature in the WBBL and Kia Super League. Her captaincy credentials match her batting prowess stroke for stroke, having led her team to a thrilling win over Australia in the final to lift the trophy in 2016. She was also the player of the series in that tournament, with the most runs and eight wickets, and has now won the Windies Cricket’s Women’s Cricketer of the Year award two years in succession. Taylor is a star, with whose performance West Indies’ chances are aligned.

Hendy Springer, the former West Indies A coach, took over the role temporarily following the axing of Vasbert Drakes after the team crashed out of the 2017 Women’s World Cup, where they won just two matches and were bundled out for an ignominious 48 against South Africa. He remains at the helm of affairs.

Best players

Twenty-year-old Hayley Matthews, who recently struck her maiden international ton against South Africa, followed by a 70 in the final T20I; the highest wicket-taker in women’s T20I cricket, offspinner Anisa Mohammed; allrounder Deandra Dottin, who won the T20 Cricketer of the Year award from her board. These will all be central figures along with Taylor.

Where will they finish?

A neck-and-neck record against England, and historical dominance over South Africa, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh makes the home team one of the favourites on paper from group A to progress through to the semi-final. (ESPNCricinfo)



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