Wednesday, February 21, 2018

West Indies women hoping for deja vu

EARLY this morning, Caribbean time, a West Indies team set out against Australia in a World Cup final. Not since 1975 has that occurred.

In the previous instance, the West Indies confirmed their status as undoubted favourites with a memorable victory by 17 runs as the late evening sun set on Lord's Cricket Ground.

The names then on the scoresheet were universally renowned—Lloyd, Kanhai, Murray, Fredericks, Boyce, Greenidge, Kallicharran and Richards. Those who take the field today at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai, India, are anonymous—or, until now, have largely been.

The Jamaican, Staphanie Taylor, rated by the ICC as the top women's all-rounder and among the top batters (as they are called to avoid any commentator's embarrassment), and Deandra Dottin, the power-hitting equivalent of Kieron Pollard, might have rung a bell for those who pay more attention to the erratic exploits of the other gender. But not many others.

It is the final of women's cricket, the poor relation of the game that gains scant attention except at times such as this when television cameras are on hand to showcase their underrated talents to the world.

Until recently, the powerhouses were Australia, England and New Zealand. Now, with increasing attention, the roots have spread. More and more bilateral series have been organised so that others (India, Sri Lanka, South Africa and, not least, the West Indies) have got stronger with the experience. The tournament that ends today has been the most competitive of all those initiated as far back as 1973.

As the men were simultaneously crashing from one defeat after another in Australia, the women were demonstrating the resilience absent in their counterparts to the south. There was clearly an absence of inflated egos. It was obvious that they were all playing for each other

A thrashing by 105 runs by India in the opening match suggested an early and ignominious exit for the girls in the maroon. Victory by 209 runs over Sri Lanka three days later revealed their true grit.

Successive Super Six victories over South Africa, New Zealand and the previously unbeaten and seemingly invincible Australia carried them through to today's rematch with the Aussies.

It would be fitting deja vu should captain Merissa Aguilleira lift the trophy at the end as Clive Lloyd did all those years ago. The West Indies are underdogs—but they did upset the same opponents in their previous match. They can again if they believe they can.