At a press conference during which the West Indies – the men – were succumbing once again to a Test series defeat, a teary Sir Garfield Sobers – the former Windies captain and arguably the greatest allrounder ever to have played the game – couldn’t hide his despair.
“Until we can get people who are willing to play for (the) West Indies in the right way, I think that we’re going to be struggling for a long time.”
The decline of West Indies cricket is a sorry but well-documented tale, and it’s been a long time in the making. It’s a tale, however, with a very narrow focus.
While the likes of Richards, Ambrose, Holding and Walsh are but distant memories in the past, names such as Dottin, Taylor and Matthews certainly aren’t.
It’s easy to conclude that the world of West Indian cricket is approaching its lowest ebb, but to assume that would be to forget one of its greatest assets – the West Indies women.
“Finally, a West Indian who can score runs,” roared one headline this week.
Just as Stafanie Taylor’s male compatriots were succumbing to a Cricket Australia XI comprised of teenagers and first class debutants, the Windies star was putting some of Australia’s finest to the sword.
WATCH: Taylor stars as Thunder crush Sixers in their WBBL opener
A destructive 59 from 38 balls, comprised of powerful drives and confident foot-work, guided Taylor to a Player of the Match performance and her team, Sydney Thunder, to a decisive victory over local rivals the Sydney Sixers in their first ever WBBL outing.
The Sixers’ Ellyse Perry, player of the series in the recent Ashes and one of the most potent seamers in women’s cricket, was pummelled for 24 runs off her two overs. Alex Blackwell, the experienced Australian vice-captain, could only perform a support role to Taylor’s dominant innings.
Report, highlights: Taylor destroys Sixers
If Sobers were to turn instead and look at the latest crop of West Indian female cricketers, he would be hard pushed to find a group of athletes more fiercely proud to be representing their region.
“Back yourself,” was Sir Viv Richards’s steadfast motto. They say you could tell how many runs he was going to score simply from the amount of swagger he had in his stride to the crease. In Deandra Dottin, self-proclaimed ‘World Boss’, the West Indies have found a worthy accomplice.
“The passion and love I have for this game,” reads a caption underneath one of Dottin’s many Instagram posts of her playing for the West Indies. “God bless the man that could hold his own and don’t like handouts,” reads another. Curtly Ambrose eat your heart out.
While the IPL and BBL may be lucrative distractions for the islands’ male cricketers, the WBBL – in which three West Indian women are competing, and dominating – is the perfect preparation for the ICC Women’s World Twenty20, which follows shortly after the WBBL’s finale. The women aren’t playing in this tournament despite their national team; they’re playing in the WBBL because of it.
In 2013, for the first time in its history, the West Indies reached an ICC final, beating both New Zealand and Australia to reach the final of the Women’s Cricket World Cup. In 2014 they came within just eight runs of defeating eventual winners Australia in the semi-final of the T20 World Cup. They demolished New Zealand in last year’s one-day series between the two sides.
The West Indies aren’t just an up-and-coming nation in the world of women’s cricket; they’re the life and soul of the party, and next year’s T20 World Cup could prove to be their coming of age.
Deandra Dottin is another star of West Indies cricket // Getty Images
It’s a common but infrequently voiced observation that if a men’s cricket team is struggling, it’s the perfect time for their female counterparts to capitalise, both in terms of media coverage and public endearment. Investment often follows.
England’s women mastered the art following the men’s 2006-07 Ashes whitewash. And this summer, following the Aussie men’s Ashes humbling, the Southern Stars became the darlings of the cricketing nation.
Investment in the West Indies’ women’s game, almost non-existent during the dominant eras of the men, is starting to pick up the pace.
The West Indies Women’s Super50 Championships, launched two years ago to reflect the men’s regional domestic competition, is thriving. Live streamed webcasts of these games are broadcast online. Neither England nor Australia offers any such thing on a match-by-match basis.
The West Indies women are the headline acts of the WBBL. If Sobers wants to find the passion, talent and dedication to the future of West Indian cricket, he knows where to look.