West Indies Women’s head coach Courtney Walsh has been commenting publicly about the West Indies team’s performances in the recent ICC 2022 Women’s World Cup as well as about women’s cricket’s most urgent needs for the immediate future. The great majority of what Walsh has said publicly has been spot on; however, he is guilty of missing a few points.
Among Walsh’s comments that can be deemed to be above dispute has been his identification of the need for Cricket West Indies (CWI) to host more competitive cricket and developmental camps as a means of allowing its women’s teams to be better prepared for international competition.
In spite of saying that he was very pleased by the Caribbean women having reached the World Cup semifinals, Walsh said the next steps were to ensure the group increased playing time and provide more avenues for new talent to be developed.
Speaking to the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper, Walsh said:
“We have to play more cricket, more competitive cricket. We have to get a lot of developmental camps going, I think, to have players be prepared. We have to try and get as much first-class cricket as we can play back home and give the girls as much exposure as we can in franchise and league cricket overseas, wherever possible. So there’s a lot of work to be done.”
Walsh, who assumed responsibility for the side in late 2020, also stressed the importance of having regional territorial boards involved in honing the talent and skills of the region’s female cricketers.
“I definitely think that we have to start planning now to have some developmental camps going as soon as possible so we can start working on new talent. I think that will be easier to do after we’ve had regional tournaments.”
As much as I am in complete agreement with all that Walsh has said, I would go even further to suggest that, in addition to hosting regional tournaments and development camps for our female cricketers, CWI also has to now place far more emphasis than ever before on popularising women’s cricket throughout the region.
The harsh reality is that, in comparison to any of the other top-ranked ICC countries, the number of girls and young ladies who are currently actively playing cricket anywhere within the Caribbean, is still much too small.
In order for Coach Walsh to have at his disposal sufficient numbers of potentially talented female cricketers attending his development camps and, even before that, participating in regional tournaments, the feeder pool from which such participants can be drawn now needs to be significantly increased. Most urgently.
To that end, one initiative CWI should look to embrace and implement would be to utilise our three current world-class women players, skipper Stafanie Taylor, Deandra Dottin and Hayley Matthews, as promotional ambassadors for the sport. As part of their duties as CWI contracted players, the threesome should be engaged to conduct promotional visits to schools within the region.
The primary purpose of such visits would be for them to share with female students their outstanding experiences as international women cricketers as a means of stimulating their interest and active participation in the sport.
In the interim, while such wholly required long-term development initiatives are being considered for implementation, Walsh also needs to develop a more realistic perspective as regards the performances of his charges during the recent World Cup.
Noting that it has been a very challenging year for his team, during which there hasn’t been any first-class cricket played within the region, Walsh has identified himself as being very pleased with the eventual outcome of the West Indies Women’s team’s 2022 ICC World Cup participation.
Such an assessment on Walsh’s part cannot be said to have been unexpected. In recent times, West Indies head coaches have demonstrated a consistent tendency to issue public statements that are somewhat removed from reality.
The truth of the matter concerning the West Indies 2022 World Cup campaign, though, is that, after somewhat surprising, very narrow victories over hosts New Zealand and eventual finalists England, they lost by comprehensive margins to both Australia and India and barely managed to come out on the winning side against Bangladesh with yet another very squeaky victory.
Three narrowly squeaky wins, an equal number of massive losses and one rain-affected no result is, therefore, not the type of record that any self-respecting head coach should be ‘very pleased by’!
Indeed, had it not been for India’s nail-biting last ball, 3-wkt loss to South Africa in the very last match of the tournament’s preliminary round, the West Indies would not even have qualified for the semifinals. Having got to that stage of the tournament, their inadequacies were then glaringly exposed for the world to see in their humiliating 157-run loss to eventual champions Australia.
One such inadequacy is that the West Indies Women’s team’s success has long since been over-dependent on the performances of the previously mentioned Taylor, Dottin and Matthews as its three world-class players.
Shemaine Campbelle and Chedean Nation both had a few encouraging performances during the tournament but overall far too many of the team’s secured victories have been as a result of outstanding contributions from Taylor, Dottin and Matthews—either individually or in some form of combination one with the other.
Unfortunately for the West Indies, even though she emerged as both the team’s highest run-scorer and its leading wicket-taker, Matthews’ batting form during the tournament was somewhat inconsistent. Dottin, meanwhile, had a highest score of 62 in the 199-run aggregate from her seven tournament innings. That equates to six knocks having produced an average of 19.5 runs per innings.
Expected to have led by example, skipper Taylor had an even more disappointing tournament. In her seven innings, Taylor had just two decent scores, an even half-century and a 48, producing a miserly aggregate of 151 and an overall average of 21.57.
With the ball, she was even less of a factor, capturing just four wickets from a paltry 22.5 overs at a relatively expensive economy rate of 5.43. By comparison, Matthews’ team-leading 10 wickets were captured from 61.5 overs at a respectable 4.33 economy rate.
Taylor’s sub-standard performances with both bat and ball, coupled with a much too often lethargic approach to her captaincy responsibilities whenever the West Indies were in the field, have now raised legitimate questions as to the merits for the continuation of her tenure as the team’s skipper.
Far too often during the World Cup, ‘seemingly uninterested’ was the description best suited to Taylor’s overall demeanour.
Now aged 30, she is still relatively young. She has now, however, been an international cricketer for 14 very long years, having made her debut in 2008 at the tender age of 16. She has also captained the West Indies Women’s team in 62 matches, the tenth highest number by any woman in international cricket.
More worryingly, her last nine innings at bat have produced five scores of under 20! She has also only captured a total of seven wickets in the last ten matches she has played.
Lessening the team’s over-dependence on Taylor, Dottin and Matthews and addressing the concerns over the former’s fitness and form are, therefore, far more urgent issues that should now be attracting coach Walsh’s immediate attention.
As such it would have been just as nice for his recent public comments to have also included his suggested solutions to these issues.