Windies women buoyant
West Indies, unlike England and New Zealand, had their destiny in their own hands. Two points ahead of the last World Cup's finalists before Wednesday's matches started, West Indies did not have to rely on another team's result or keep an eye on two scoreboards at a time. And now, at the conclusion of the Super Six stage, they sit at the top of the table with eight points and a net run-rate better than Australia's.
West Indies coach Sherwin Campbell, who played 90 ODIs, believes that beating Australia gave the players a lot of confidence and motivation before their first World Cup final.
"Mentally it's good for us," Campbell told ESPNcricinfo. "We will take the positives from this game into the finals and it gives the players confidence and self-belief that they can beat a top team. And that's half the job done."
Five-time champions Australia had been unbeaten in the tournament and West Indies were not considered one of the strongest teams before the World Cup began two weeks ago. Campbell was delighted at the thought of playing the final on Sunday and happy with the team's effort after they were restricted to 164.
"It's always a good feeling to play in any final," Campbell said. "We worked hard to get here and I always tell the players that you've got to believe in your ability and work hard. If you have the right attitude, you can beat any team. It makes us recognised in ICC tournaments, which is excellent for the team."
That they had to beat Australia, who they had never beaten before in ODIs, to qualify for the final was not going to be easy as Australia had won five matches in a row, but West Indies just wanted to win all their matches, no matter who the opposition.
"We haven't played them often enough. We knew that we had to win every game in the Super Sixes to get to the final so that was our intention from the beginning."
England and New Zealand were also in contention for a spot in the final before Wednesday's matches and all the focus was on their match as Australia were favourites to beat West Indies, especially after dismissing them for 164.
"Obviously I expected that because England, New Zealand, Australia have been the consistent teams for the last couple of years," Campbell said. "We have improved every year though and once we play enough cricket against these top teams, we can really compete. It was excellent to compete against the top teams to be in the finals."
West Indies beat South Africa, New Zealand and Australia in their Super Six fixtures to advance to the final. Their match-winners in the World Cup have been two 21-year-olds, Stafanie Taylor and Deandra Dottin. While Taylor is the second-highest run-scorer, averaging 51.50, Dottin has made 204 runs at a strike rate of 136 and is their leading wicket-taker with nine wickets.
"Teams are always looking at younger players who have talent and have more time, and learn from the games they play and the experience they get. We had a lot of games over the last two years against England, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. You learn from each series. You learn and improve from each situation and that's what helped a lot of them and we got better with every game and situation."
Dottin was recognised after she broke the record for the fastest hundred in Twenty20s (men or women) against South Africa in 2010. Being a middle-order batsman, she also has to rescue her team at times, like yesterday when they were 59 for five and Dottin walked out. But never has she been told to not play her natural game or not attack from the first ball.
"Deandra has to definitely play her natural game. You can't change someone because of a certain situation. You have to play your natural game but in a more sensible way with your shot selection and stuff. But you must have the same mentality going into the match because that's your game and you can't change that."
Campbell thinks this performance, and his team's showing in the T20 World Cup in October, may encourage more girls in the Caribbean to opt for cricket.
"I don't think women's cricket gets enough mileage [in the Caribbean] so it's good that this World Cup is shown on television and shown all over the Caribbean. We were on television during the T20 semifinals and now we are in the finals. So it is good that we are being televised and people in the Caribbean and all over the world can see that West Indies women can play good cricket as well as the other teams. And hopefully that will encourage more children in the Caribbean to learn cricket."
Campbell was also cheerful about the fact that West Indies cricket, for men and women, has been doing well recently. After the men's team won the T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka in October, a victory for the women's team on Sunday will add to the list of positives for the region.
"This shows that cricket in the Caribbean is developing and is getting better. It's well organised and everyone is focused on doing the right things."