In the last three World T20s (2010, 2012 and 2014), Windies women have crashed out after reaching the semi-finals. This time, they have managed to break the jinx. They will be playing the finals against three-time winner Australia.
During the ICC Champions League in 2012, the Caribbeans created quite a stir when they paraded the Gangnam style to celebrate their wins. Now, they have a new victory dance—from riding an imaginary horse, they have switched to rocking a non-existent chair. In case you wonder from where they got the move, look up their own all-rounder “DJ” Bravo's new hit number, “Champion”.
Bravo's World Cup anthem is one of those songs that the more you listen to it, the more it grows on you—just like the West Indian cricket team. The men have had their share of ups and downs. They have struggled in the limited-overs format and their performances in Test cricket have been very patchy. The differences between the players and administration off the field further add to their on-field woes. Payment disputes, fitness concerns and selection flaws have taken a toll on the team's performance in the past few seasons.
Fortunately, their women’s team, instead of getting themselves bogged down on similar issues, are using their energies to hone skills and get better each day. The first time I played against the West Indies side was during my first world cup in India in 1997. They lost the match but not without giving us a scare. They were inexperienced, but strong hitters. They were not the most agile, but generated good pace in their bowling. Almost two decades later, they are contending for their first world cup title.
As a former player, I can assure you such a result does not come overnight or by merely planning for it. It requires years of hard work, preparation, timeless hours of training, proper guidance, all-round support and, above all, the desire to excel.
The ICC took over the IWCC (International women cricket council) in 2005 and since then women players in most cricketing nations got access to facilities and infrastructure their male counterparts were using. It helped them interact with and learn the sport, keeping the gender difference aside.
Sherwin Campbell, the former West Indian international, was entrusted with the task of coaching the women's team in 2007-08. In the 2009 ICC World Cup in Australia, they did not make much of an impact, but in the World Twenty20 held in their own backyard the next year, the Windies team made it to their first-ever semi-finals.
They lost to New Zealand but won lot of hearts with their efforts and approach to the game. They announced in style that women's cricket was not just the domain of three or four big names.
They started playing a lot of international cricket since then, bilateral tours were being organised and the exposure earned by players was helping them grow as a team. Attention to fitness and diet, and influx of raw talent from time to time attested to the fact that a good outfit was being formed.
While all these developments were taking place, the main objective of the team was get stronger with every series. The names that are common today—Stefanie Taylor, Deandra Dottin, Merissa Aguilleira and Anisa Mohammed—settled well in their respective roles, while others gelled in regularly to form a comprehensive unit.
In the last three World T20s (2010, 2012 and 2014), the women’s team crashed out after reaching the semi-finals. This time, they have managed to break the jinx and cross over to the next level. They will be playing the finals against three-time winner Australia. Whether they will be able pass the final barrier and win the elusive world title is a question to which we will soon get the answer.
But one thing is assured, both the men's and women's team will bring the Caribbean flavour the world of cricket does not like to miss. And who knows, they both may end up celebrating and dancing to the ‘Champion song’ together.
The author is a former captain of Indian women's cricket team and a Padma Shri. She tweets @chopraanjum.