Can unpredictable West Indies weather the mighty Australian storm?
A few days ago, when the widely watched Women’s World Cup was yet to reach the semifinal stage, a video specifically related to the Windies team went viral. We saw live spontaneous reactions of a closely knit unit of the West Indies women watching the proceedings of the (then) ongoing India-South Africa clash.
One run was needed off as many deliveries for the Proteas to qualify. Failure at doing so would’ve meant that India would march ahead with the West Indies boarding the next flight back home to the Caribbean.
What happened next spelt agony and ecstasy
As the experienced Mignon du Preez hit the winning runs of Deepti Sharma’s off spin, the Proteas romped home absolutely ecstatic, and India crashed out of the World Cup with nothing more than sheer agony for company.
As a result, the West Indies were overjoyed.
There was pandemonium in the hotel gallery where the Caribbean unit was watching live proceedings.
Remember, they weren’t in the game; and were mere audiences. The girls- Hayley Matthews, Chedean Nation, Shakira Selman, Deandra Dottin, Anisa Mohammed- all of them were simply overjoyed.
Oh, what scenes!
And yet, there was something about the overjoyed team that stood out, but perhaps didn’t get many people’s attention.
It was the sight of their captain, Stafanie Taylor, who rather uncannily sat motionless, absolutely unmoved at the corner table. It was as if she was into a world of her own, silently reclusive from the band of zealous girls who had landed on the moon for such was their happiness.
So, was Stafanie not happy about the fact that West Indies had progressed into the semifinals?
Of course, only the opposite is true. So why was she the way she was?
Taylor stayed cool and calm, like a true leader
Truth be known, there was a great reason as to why Taylor retreated to reticence and was calm about the proceedings.
She did cut a smile later on as the entire team came together in a huddle of sorts. But the reason to abstain from wild celebrations was perhaps down to the fact that the wise one from the West Indies camp was aware of the magnitude of challenge that lay ahead of her team.
The challenge called Australia.
There are some opponents who seem like stern walls to climb. But Australia are a mountain obstinately insurmountable or so it seems to the untrained eye. Maybe it was the realisation that her West Indies had fixed a semifinal date with the very team that had thrashed them days before that got Stafanie paying heaps of attention.
What the West Indies have against them isn’t just a cricket team; it’s a continent. Mathematically speaking, it’s a seventh of the world that’s opposing their chances to reach the finals. And this is the mother of all cricketing battles, the grandest stage that there can be.
At times, it does appear that to merely confront Australia is akin to staring deathly into the eyes of a lioness.
Mayhem will likely follow
Few teams play as aggressively and tactfully as the Southern Stars. And in confirming precisely this, Meg Lanning, unsurprisingly the “Mega Star” of the game, already stated that they are planning for each individual from the “dangerous” West Indies team.
What chances the West Indies have of overcoming an onerous challenge called the Australian team could be ascertained from the bet-o-meter that’s already likely announced the odds and it doesn’t seem as though Taylor’s girls have that mega a chance.
There’s reason to this and it’s not irrational.
In their last outing in the World Cup of 2017, the Windies were smashed by the Aussies. In this edition itself, Lanning’s team drained the life out of Taylor’s unit, disallowing them to even reach a score of 140.
While on paper, the West Indies offer both boldness and mercurial strength, on ground things change rapidly as seen in their previous campaigns.
They can do both- collapse quickly like a pack of cards and win games when oddly nothing’s left to play for.
In their opening campaign of CWC, they offered Dottin, who’s not been bowling a great deal, the final over and the result was an emphatic defeat handed to the hosts.
In the game against England, another neck-to-neck encounter, Anisa Mohammed, a spin legend, turned the tables in Windies’ favour.
In both games, two of their big three- Dottin and Mathews- chipped in. Taylor, an all round par excellence failed with the bat.
Then came the heartbreaking losses to India and Australia and now, as the team needs one final push to make it to the finals, there stands amid a hubris of doubt a massive question for the West Indies.
Rather, make that two, instead of one.
Will their big three- Deandra Dottin, Hayley Matthews and Stafanie Taylor- fire with both bat and ball?
Truth be told, only Matthews- a hundred to her name in the eminent event- has seemed in fine touch. Dottin, despite her destructive 62 vs India hasn’t quite been herself.
Taylor, on the other hand, has gone softer, scoring only a solitary fifty in such time.
But is the Jamaican leader saving her best for the last? The West Indies wouldn’t mind that one bit.
What happens if the big three fail to pack a punch?
How far, supposing Windies bat first, can the likes of Knight (awfully out of form), Nation(painfully slow in run making) and Campbelle (who’s looked promising in patches) shoulder the responsibility of run scoring?
If they come to defend, even then the West Indies have their fair share of problems.
Afy Fletcher has already been ruled out of the game. Karishma Ramharack, though mighty impressive and economical versus Bangladesh and Australia, hasn’t picked wickets. Connell, the go-to option for seam has only just recovered from injury and Selman hasn’t looked terribly threatening to score of. Can Mohammed take wickets on her own?
There are more questions than answers confronting West Indies at this point and most of them deal in the realm of “what now?”
Theirs is a familiar template of unpredictability. For a team that brings such much passion to the game, the performances are too often underlined by mediocrity and a sense of unpredictability, the latter that you’d love to avoid when it’s certainty that one badly needs at the business end of tournaments like the ODI World Cup.
So as the first ball goes underway in just a few hours from now – the big question concerning the woman who sat calmly during those absolute scenes with her teammates going berserk is this- can Taylor’s team do something that makes her jump in joy?
Forget not that in order to do so, the spirited bunch of cricketers will have to mow down what’s essentially a redoubtable quintuplet of match winners, starting with Meg Lanning, Alyssa Healy, Meghan Schutt, Jess Jonassen and Rachel Haynes.
The good news for Australia is that West Indies are unpredictable. The bad news, however, too is the same.
So, what can the unpredictable Windies do?